Charity takes aim at anti-Muslim sentiment on social media

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A Melbourne-based charity has developed software to combat rising social media hate speech aimed at Muslims.

Tackling the alarming rise in anti-Muslim abuse has become the focus of a progressive and determined Melbourne-based charity, the Online Hate Prevention Institute.

It is urging all hate speech victims to report perpetrators through a recently launched online tool known as the Samih Project.

The tool is aimed at making the process easier and more supportive.

"You can't let this level of toxicity poison our public debate and our multicultural society in Australia."

Examples of the anti-Muslim abuse are on the rise, but often victims are reluctant to come forward.

Pakistan-born Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi decided to take a stand after being targeted by a troll.

The exchange started in response to a message she posted on Twitter describing a peaceful winter evening in Queensland.

"How beautiful is Brisbane River at night? Enjoying some quality time with my daughter," the tweet said.

The response from Twitter user @wesi12 was prompt. "Before your husband blows it up,” the user tweeted.

Dr Faruqi said the message was confronting and deeply offensive.

"It does feel pretty abusive to get messages like this which make you feel like you are not part of society - that you are not an Australian," said the mother-of-two, who emigrated to Australia in 1992, studied here and now serves in public office.

Islamophobia on most social media platforms is on the rise, according to the founder of the Samih Project, Dr Andre Oboler.

Dr Oboler believes it is largely driven by fears over unrest in the Middle East, the proliferation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, and the threat of terrorism.

"You also end up with individual activists who send private messages to people [reading] 'I'm going to come slit your throat I'm going to slit the throat of your kids'," Dr Oboler said.

The charity offers a simple online process for victims to make reports, and also offers support. In some cases, the offending posts can be removed.

Dr Oboler said the elaborate software was originally developed to tackle online anti-Semitism, and has now been modified to tackle a range of vilification, including anti-Muslim abuse.

"Sadly it is as a result of the Holocaust that Jewish organisations have been very vigilant and have put in the time and resources and experts to tackle these problems,” he said. “We're bringing it to the broader community."

He also believes social media companies like Facebook and Twitter should be held more accountable and subjected to litigation when serious cases cannot be resolved.

"When there are assets available, the companies themselves will be under a lot more pressure to respect local law; and then in a country like Australia, where we believe hate-speech is unlawful, it won't happen," he said.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi said she will encourage others to take a similar stand, in an attempt to reduce hate speech.

"I think what we need to do and what I did is to expose it," she said. "You can't let this level of toxicity poison our public debate and our multicultural society in Australia."

Source SBS

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