Online hate and discrimination
Online hate and discrimination takes many forms.
eSafety's research shows that the LGBTIQ+ community experiences online hate at more than double the national average in Australia. It is important to recognise that online hate and discrimination also comes from within the community. We all have a role to play in ensuring that the online world is a safe and inclusive place for everyone.
Source: Adults’ negative online experiences.
On this page:
What is online hate?
Although there is no internationally agreed legal definition of online hate, it can be described as any kind of online communication that attacks, discriminates, insults or uses hateful language against a person or group based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
There is a big difference between freedom of opinion and expression, and being openly hateful. Unfortunately, digital platforms provide additional avenues for both.
Remember that your comments and messages online can have a huge impact on the mental health and wellbeing of other people.
Tips to avoid crossing the line into online hate
Try to remain positive, upbeat or informational
If you are having a bad day, don’t use social media to discharge your anger.
Add value to the conversation
If you don’t have anything to say that adds value, it is better not to share it.
Be respectful when you are debating online
It’s OK to call people out for negative behaviour but be informative, not offensive.
Remember that the online world is part of everyday life
If you wouldn't feel comfortable saying something face-to-face, it is better not to say it online.
A screenshot is forever
Years from now, any comment that you make could get you into trouble or affect your employment opportunities.
Online hate targeting LGBTIQ people
The LGBTIQ+ community is sometimes targeted by individuals or groups who discriminate against LGBTIQ+ people. These individuals or groups often use social media to spread online hate.
‘I volunteer by doing the social media at a not-for-profit organisation that supports LGBTIQ+ young people.’
‘They were looking at raising funds for a youth project and I suggested that they pay for a social media campaign to reach a greater audience. We received positive comments but lots of negative comments too. Some of these negative comments were absolutely horrendous and used homophobic and transphobic abuse. It was really stressful for all our volunteers. Our solution was to actively remove a significant number of these comments, we took screenshots of the evidence, reported them to the platform and blocked them. We wanted to avoid engaging with the abusers because we thought this would make things worse.’ – Nico*
‘Working in media and communication, I have learned that it is generally the boosted posts – the ones we pay for to reach out to wider audiences – that receive online hate comments.’
‘For instance, any post to support the trans community gets bombarded with hateful comments. We had to set up content moderation for any comments published on Facebook, we also blocked keywords from appearing and applied some filters. If we use Instagram to promote any campaigns, we activate “limits” in the privacy settings to automatically hide comments and DM requests from people who don’t follow us. This has been a really helpful way to screen out online hate.’ – Elizabeth*
Tips to deal with online hate
Screenshot the chat or post. You might need it as evidence to report the abuse to online services, police or eSafety. Find out more about how to collect evidence
Report harmful content
Report harmful posts or profiles to the app, service or platform – you can find links in The eSafety Guide. If the harmful content meets the legal definition of adult cyber abuse, and the service or platform does not help, you can report it to eSafety.
Prevent further contact
Once you have collected evidence, you can use in-app functions or the settings on the web browser to mute, unfollow or block the other person and change your privacy settings. The eSafety Guide has advice on key online safety functions for many online services, including dating apps.
Delete comments and use moderation tools
If your post is being bombarded with negative comments, you can always delete the comments once you have taken screenshots as evidence (in case you need this later on). Many online services also allow you to turn off comments or use content moderation tools that allow you to block or filter content containing certain keywords. You may also be able to limit comments and direct messages from people who don’t follow a particular account.
Online hate from within the LGBTIQ community
Online hate and discrimination can also come from within the LGBTIQ+ community. Calling out negative behaviour is important, but remember to do it in a way that is factual and avoids causing offence. Always put your mental health and wellbeing first.
‘I am proud Aboriginal bi+ woman, but I sometimes experience online hate from lesbians who don’t understand or accept my sexuality.’
‘They send me messages like “you are a closet lesbian”, “you are masquerading as straight but really you are gay”, or “you’re just experimenting”. These messages have come from former partners and from other members of the community. I resist the urge to answer because I don’t want to argue with people who don’t get me.’ – Kirra*
Racism and religious discrimination
‘One might hope that there is no way the LGBTIQ+ community could be racist, especially considering all the discrimination that we experience as a community.’
‘But this is not the case, I am constantly dealing with racist comments on my social media like, “Are you a terrorist?” or “Your religion wants us dead”. I have also witnessed racism against other communities. Comments like “Learn how to write in English first”, and “You have no right to have an opinion because you weren’t born here”. I have called out this behaviour whenever I can. I’ve been called a drama queen, someone even told me to stop being so hypersensitive, but it hasn’t stopped me trying to call it out. Being racist is not OK.’ – Ghassan*
‘Cis gay and lesbian populations are enjoying hard fought rights that trans people are currently fighting for.’
‘I have been excluded from women’s apps and groups because they only admit “real women”, but I am a real woman. If I defend myself as a trans person in a post, I get told that I just want attention and that I’m really a man. It’s painful and embarrassing to have to deal with all the hateful comments. What’s worse is that some of these comments come from within the LGBTIQ+ community. I have taken screenshots, reported them to the platform and blocked them. I have also changed my social media privacy settings to ensure that I only connect with people I know – doing this has given me peace of mind.’ – Sarah*
What you can do about it
- Find out more about adult cyber abuse – If you are being targeted online or discriminated against, read our advice on how to deal with adult cyber abuse.
- Call out negative behaviour online – Remember, always be informative, not offensive. Once you have collected evidence (in case you need this later on), you can also block the person.
- Get advice and support – See our advice on what to do if you experience negative behaviour online.
*The personal stories quoted here are real accounts taken from our community engagement sessions, only the names have been changed.
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