- Online hate can be ‘intersectional’ – meaning you’re bullied for a range of different characteristics, at the same time.
- If someone is attacking you online for characteristics you can’t change, it is not your responsibility to educate them at the expense of your own wellbeing or safety.
- If you are targeted by online hate, you can report it to the platform where it happened, and then to eSafety if the online platform doesn’t action your report.
What is online hate?
Online hate includes any hateful posts about a person or a group of people for things they can’t change – like their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability. When online hate is targeted towards a specific person, it's considered to be cyberbullying.
Some communities are more at risk of experiencing online hate, such as First Nations Peoples, the LGBTIQ+ community and people with intellectual disabilities.
Sadly, over 50% of young people have seen or heard hateful comments about a cultural or religious group online. First Nations Peoples and the LGBTIQ+ community experience online hate speech at more than double the national average. You can read more about this in our research about Young people’s experience with online hate, bullying and violence.
If you have experienced cyberbullying based on your personal characteristics, you are not alone. You can always call out harmful content, report the negative comments to the online platform, game, app or website, block people targeting you or make a report to eSafety if it causes you serious harm.
Remember: it is not your responsibility to educate someone at the expense of your mental health and wellbeing. This is especially true if you are the target of online hate.
Online hate can also be ‘intersectional’ – meaning a person may be attacked for more than one unchangeable personal characteristic.
Intersectional online hate can be someone:
- Making videos mocking someone who is a trans woman for performing womanhood ‘incorrectly’.
- Writing abusive comments about a queer person of a multicultural background, which makes cruel and inappropriate comments about both their race and sexuality.
- Writing abusive comments online about women with intellectual disabilities.
This kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable, and we all have a role to play in shifting the culture that says it’s OK.
Targets of online hate may also deal with hate in their day-to-day life, and facing it online can be another level of exhaustion. This is why, when we see online hate happening, and we’re able to, we should all be upstanders.
I believe social media websites should have a duty of care to protect its users.
Especially when cyberbullying is so much easier to do behind the screen than face-to-face.
So, what's cyberbullying?
It can range from someone at school posting indirect but aggressive comments about you or someone setting up a fake or embarrassing account in your name.
It's behavior that's consistent, persistent and designed to humiliate you and anyone can cyberbully you – from a friend to a stranger.
No matter the form it takes, cyberbullying is never okay.
If you feel comfortable enough, you can try asking the person to take their comments down.
If the cyberbullying misrepresents you or your opinion, you can try saying, 'Hey, this is unfair' before explaining your reasons why.
If the bullying gets worse, this is usually a sign that things aren't going to get better without outside help.
Often cyberbullies like a fight, especially from behind the screen. If this happens, it's time to screenshot, report and block.
The websites you're on are also responsible for your welfare, which means that any cyberbullying should be reported to them first to address.
If nothing changes, eSafety can also step in.
Report it to eSafety and they'll do their best to help you out.
So my final word of advice is to stay positive, and the cyberbullying itself reflects the cyberbully not you and it's okay to seek help.
Lachlan: How to deal with cyberbullying
My favourite thing about the internet is the connection it brings.
I can talk to anyone from anywhere. I can share anything I want.
It can be hard to open up to the adults in your life when things go wrong online, especially if you think they're not going to understand or that they're gonna blame you.
But the adults in your life can help with certain things like gathering evidence for an eSafety complaint or filing a police report.
They can also act as your advocate so that when you're feeling unsure, you have somebody who'll speak up for you and remind you of the respect that you deserve.
If you don't know how to reach out that's understandable.
It can be tough, even though staying silent can make your problem worse.
It's important to figure out which adult you trust enough to talk to.
Your trusted adult could be one of your parents, but it could also be an English teacher or one of the adults at your job.
Then you have to figure out what you want to ask them or tell them.
Writing down what you want to see can be super helpful.
You might ask for help making a report, you might ask for advice for what to do or you might just need somebody to listen.
Last of all, you need to figure out where you want to hold this conversation.
You might want to chat over the phone or via text, so it's not as overwhelming as in person.
Or you could chat after school in a place that's going to be comfortable for you and there'll be no distractions.
Once you've figured out which adult you want to talk to and you're prepared for the conversation, try sending them a text to let them know you want to chat.
You could say something like, 'Hey, there's been a problem online and I need your help.'
And remember, the adult in your life were once our age too.
They may have been in similar situations and may have advice to share from what they've learned.
They'll be able to help you carry the load.
It shouldn't be up to you to do this alone.
Keep in mind that eSafety also has a pretty big directory of free and confidential support services you can access at any time.
Thalia: The hows and whys of opening up
Something has happened
Ask them to stop. If you feel uncomfortable with the way someone is speaking to you, and you feel safe to do so, ask them to change their behaviour. It might not always work, but sometimes just letting them know they're upsetting you will make them reassess their actions. Other people may not realise that what they are saying is hateful or discriminatory, and a gentle comment can help to change the language they are using. But if they come back to you with more hate, it is best to not respond.
Screenshot, report and block on the online platform. The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms, such as games, apps and websites. Screenshots help if you need to take further action at any stage, so think of it as ‘insurance’. Confidentially reporting them to the platform can help keep the platform safe for others, and you can do this before blocking them.
If the platform doesn't help, make a report to eSafety. If you are under 18, you can make a cyberbullying report, and if you are over 18, you can make an adult cyber abuse complaint. Our team of expert investigators is there to help and assist you. Learn more on what to expect when reporting.
Get help and support. If the content is really concerning you and you’re feeling a little out of your depth, talk to a trusted adult. You may feel like you should be able to handle it yourself, but talking to someone makes it easier to decide what to do and deal with the impact. You can also seek help from confidential counselling and support services.
Call it out. If you feel confident and safe to do so, say something to the person who has shared the content. Sometimes people don’t realise what they are saying is hateful or discriminatory, and a gentle comment can help to change the language they are using.
Stand up to it. When hate is met with more hate or fear, it can get worse. So if you feel like you’re safe to do so, step up and change the narrative.
Take care of the person who’s being targeted. Having someone’s back online can make a huge difference for the person and those around them. You could try sending them a message to see if they’re alright, or if there’s anything you can do. Or you can check if they’re comfortable with you speaking-up on their behalf. Learn more about being an upstander.
Report, and block on the platform. The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms. Confidentially reporting them to the platform can help keep the platform safe for others, and you can do this before blocking them.
Never feed the trolls. Resist the urge to respond. As tempting as it is, by replying, you are giving the troll what they want. Not responding is the best response.
Get support from confidential counselling and support services
5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.
12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available 9am to 1am AEST, every day.
Last updated: 26/06/2023