Online hate speech

Hate speech is recognised as a growing online issue which can negatively impact a person’s mental health, general wellbeing and online engagement.

It can also, in the most extreme cases, lead to harassment and violence offline.

Each agency has an interest in exploring the attitudes and experiences with online hate speech in their respective countries as it is directly relevant to their mandates to empower people to have safer, more positive experiences online. 

This research report is the result of collaboration between the eSafety Commissioner in Australia, Netsafe in New Zealand and United Kingdom’s SWGfL as part of the European Social and Emotional Learning for Mutual Awareness (SELMA) project. This report is part of an ongoing program of cross-agency online safety research. 

Key findings 

  • Both Australia and New Zealand used a common definition of hate speech and this was reflected in similar exposure rates for their populations. In Australia, around 14% of the adult population was estimated to have been the target of online hate speech in the 12 months to August 2019. In New Zealand, this was around 15% in the 12 months to June 2019. 
  • In Australia and New Zealand, younger adults were also more likely to have experienced hate speech. This finding was also reflected in the 18% of young people in the European SELMA project who reported experiencing hate speech over a period of three months.
  • Religion, political views, race and gender were the most common reasons cited in both Australia and New Zealand for experiencing hate speech. Young people interviewed as part of the European SELMA project were more likely to be targeted because of their appearance and their sexuality


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