Cyber racism

What is cyber racism?

This includes racism which occurs on the internet such as racist websites, images, blogs, videos and online comments as well as racist comments, images or language in text messages, emails or on social networking sites (See AHRC Factsheet 2014 [PDF] ). In the context of Australian schooling it is defined more broadly as any use of information and communication technologies to transmit racist attitudes and behaviour including the transfer of racially offensive content that is intended to cause harm or distress to another person.

Cyber racism is a form of racism. Online activities or published material that result in offensive comments in relation to a persons race, colour or national or ethnic origin, have the same effect as similar offline activities. Cyber racism may present as racial hatred or cyber bullying.

Cyber racism – a form of racial hatred
In law, racism in online public spaces is referred to as racial hatred and/or vilification and as such racial hatred laws apply.

Cyber racism – a form of cyber bullying
Cyber bullying is commonly defined as the use of information and communication technologies to support repeated and deliberate hostile behaviour intended to harm others. It is sometimes used as an extension of other forms of bullying, and can result in the target of bullying experiencing social, psychological, physical and academic difficulties. Cyber bullying that is racially offensive or racist in nature is referred to as cyber racism.

The nature of rapidly developing technologies means that areas that were once considered private spaces are now public. The increased use of internet and the development of social networking sites and maps, for example, mean that comments classified as ‘racist’, typically between one person and another, can now be sent to thousands of people within seconds. This has more serious consequences for the target of the racist behaviour.

In addition, the increased use and accessibility of technology means that everyone can self-publish on the internet. This has inevitably led to many websites that are factually incorrect. It has also led to the development of web content that is racially motivated. The increased use of web 2.0 technologies (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Youtube) has also provided forums for racist material. The case studies in this section provide examples of this.