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Social media platforms battle online haters

In a fresh trend, big digital companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo are joining forces to tackle online hate and violent extremist content.

This month, YouTube opened a new space at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, hosting a YouTube Content Creators Bootcamp. The event brought together over 100 social influencers and anti-hate speech experts with the aim of promoting collaboration, inclusion and diversity.

YouTube has pledged $1 million and its charity arm Google.org has committed a further $2 million to help tackle online hate, Google’s Samantha Yorke told The Point Magazine.

One of the event organisers, Rebecca Mok, Director at Love Frankie, a social change creative agency, told The Point Magazine that social media organisations have a key role to play when curbing online hate.

“Providing a positive alternative narrative can be a more effective way to diminish the appeal of hate speech, dispel misinformation and foster an environment where these narratives become less acceptable… However, ultimately it is the community of users, including opinion leaders and influencers, that have to foster an online discourse that favours tolerance and understanding, rather than division and hate. While the internet has made it much easier for someone to promote hateful narratives, the way which in we respond is as much a reflection of the values and norms of our communities as it is a reflection of the technology that has amplified them.”

Yorke said that social media organisations cannot counter online hate alone. 

“Balancing people’s right to express themselves with deliberations about whether to remove content that may be offensive or controversial but which does not violate community guidelines, that’s perhaps one of the biggest challenges.”

– Samantha Yorke, Google

“We can be part of the solution, and work regularly with NGOs and government to better understand the issues and how we can be of help. No one sector of society can solve this problem on their own.  The social media industry contributes technical smarts and platforms that reach global audiences to broader efforts to counter hate speech. Our role is to develop policies that prohibit hate speech and content that incites violence and to enforce these policies rigorously by removing offending content when we are made aware of it.”

Yorke said while it’s a top priority to counter hate speech, maintaining the right to freedom of expression is equally important.

“Balancing people’s right to express themselves with deliberations about whether to remove content that may be offensive or controversial but which does not violate community guidelines, that’s perhaps one of the biggest challenges.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Attorney General’s Department collaborated with Digital Industry Group Incorporated (DIGI) to host a social media online hate prevention youth forum in Melbourne.

The forum bought together 150 young people from around the country and from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to promote tolerance, diversity and positive engagement online.

A spokesperson for the department said government is collaborating with private sector social media organisations to address this complex issue. 

The Point Magazine team, Widyan Fares far right and Kavita Bedford, third from right present at the Youtube Bootcamp event.

“The Australian government works closely with our digital industry partners - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo - to explore and adopt new methods to challenge and undermine material that promotes hate, disharmony and violence.”

 The spokesperson said the aim was to create a safe space for young people to discuss the challenges in countering online hate and to learn tools to effectively manage difficult conversations online.

 “We all play a vital role in speaking out against hatred, racism and intolerance.  And our reliance on the digital world gives us more opportunity than ever to amplify our voice, and speak up if we see something that compromises our values, or even worse - if we see someone in danger. The event sought to empower our youth as future leaders to use digital platforms to tell their stories and engage in conversations on a broad range of issues that directly affect them and their families.”

 Hass Dellal, founder of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, told the young audience, “Online content that’s destructive and hateful is a problem for all and we must play our role in protecting ourselves and others.” 

Kuranda Seyit, from the Islamic Council of Victoria, said young people should be mindful when engaging online. “Certain treatment of Muslims is a deliberate attempt to create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality and we must be aware of that and take it into consideration when responding to targeted online hate.”

 Dellal said that online haters or ‘trolls’ are afraid of empowered young people.

 “You have the tool and power to change the narrative they are in fear…you can shape news and make the news for positive reasons, the power is in your hands,” he said.

Google believes in the power of technology to counter hate and promote messages of hope, Yorke said.

 “We believe that technology, and platforms like YouTube, can be a force for good.  Counter speech and other alternative narratives are one of the more promising strategies; we are focused on making sure that there is ample content on YouTube that promotes truth and understanding, and can drown out content that promotes violence, hate, or fear. Young people can play an incredibly important role by speaking up! Digital platforms provide a great opportunity to reach an audience of millions with messages of hope and inclusion.”  

The Point

In a fresh trend, big digital companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo are joining forces to tackle online hate and violent extremist content.

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