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Interim Report

Interim Report Released for
International Human Rights Day
10 December 2015
Copyright ©2015 Online Hate Prevention Institute
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Author: Dr Andre Oboler
CEO, Online Hate Prevention Institute

Author: Andre Oboler
Thank you to the OHPI staff who assisted with the production of this report and with the SAMIH
campaign which gathered the data. Particular thanks to Chetna Prakash for her contribution to the
research, to Danny Cohen for the graphs and the cover, and to Christine Rodwell for work processing
the raw data.

©2015 Online Hate Prevention Institute
This publication is copyright. Other than for the purpose of and subject to the conditions
prescribed under the Copyright Act, no part of this publication may in any form or by any
means (electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted without prior written permission.
Enquires should be addressed to the publishers.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported
License. This notice serves as prior written permission to the extent covered by the license.

Executive Summary
The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is an Australian charity dedicated to combating the
rising problem of online hate, particularly in social media. Our focus includes racism, religious
vilification, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, cyber-bullying, and others forms of online hate
speech. We believe hate speech in public online spaces is as unacceptable as hate speech on the
public street. We believe the Internet should not be used as a shield to protect the promotion of
incitement, vilification and bigotry which attacks the human dignity of those who are targeted.
This interim report provides some background and preliminary data from OHPI’s forthcoming
“Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate Report” due to be released in March 2016. This interim
report is being released for International Human Rights Day (10th of December 2015) and in light of
the need to urgently address this growing problem which threatens the inclusivity of our society and
the human dignity of our people.
Anti-Muslim hate has accelerated sharply in 2015. It is based on a misplaced fear of Muslims in
general in response to the actions of specific terrorist groups claiming to act in the name of Islam.
These terrorist actions during the year included: the attacks in France in January on the satirical
publication Charlie Hebdo, a police officer, and a kosher supermarket; the actions of the terrorist
group Daesh (aka: ISIS / ISIL / Islamic State) in Syria; Daesh’s social media strategy promoting terror
through graphic videos of violence, including beheadings; concerns over foreign fighters travelling to
Syria from the West, and fear over their actions when they returned; attacks by those who were
unable to travel to Syria to join Daesh; the war in Syria that is creating a major refugee problem, and
which in turn is triggering rising xenophobia.
The messages of anti-Muslim hate online mostly fall into one of eight themes: presenting Muslims as
terrorists and a threat to public safety; promoting threats and violence against Muslims;
dehumanising and demonising Muslims; claiming Muslims are a "threat to our way of life"; claiming
Muslims are manipulative and dishonest; xenophobia against Muslims, including a specific focus on
refugees; efforts to undermine the resistance to hate against Muslims; and efforts to exclude
Muslims from society, for example by preventing Halal certification of food, or the building of new
mosques.
Our “Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate” campaign ran for a two month period from late
September 2015 to late November 2015. In this period, we collected over 1,100 items of antiMuslim hate in social media which were reported to us by the public through our
FightAgainstHate.com reporting tool. The public categorised these items as they reported them.
OHPI staff have reviewed the items, archived them, and noted which have since been removed by
the platform providers. This interim report provides the preliminary breakdown of items by social
media platform, by the category of anti-Muslim hate, and with details of the removal rates by
category.
Prior to the release of the final report, the data behind the report will have additionally been vetted
by our panel of independent experts led by: Ms Priscilla Brice (All Together Now, Sydney); Dr Denis
MacEoin (Fellow, Middle East Forum, UK); Prof Yin Paradies (Deakin University, Melbourne); Dr
Imran Awan (Birmingham City University, UK); Prof Andrew Jakubowicz (University of Technology
Sydney); and Dr Anne Aly (Curtin University, Perth). The independently vetted data will be shared

with the social media companies with a request for further review. The final report will provide
updated takedown rates after this opportunity has been provided to the social media companies.
The report will also include additional examples of the hate and explanations and discussion about
those examples.
The vast majority of the hate this report is based on was found on Facebook. The vast majority of
this hate has not yet been removed. Earlier today, December 9th in the US, Mark Zuckerberg wrote,
“If you're a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are
always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe
environment for you.” We strongly support Zuckerberg’s words, but our data shows that Facebook is
currently falling far short of this ideal. We hope this interim report, and the later final report, help
Facebook focus their efforts and improve their response when users report anti-Muslim hate.
We invite the public to continue reporting new instances of anti-Muslim hate through our
FightAgainstHate.com software. The final report will include a preliminary breakdown by category of
any further data collected prior to the report going to press. We also invite interested journalists to
contact us in the lead up to the final report’s release. Further examples of anti-Muslim hate can be
seen in our 2013 Islamophobia report which will remain the most complete report on anti-Muslim
hate in social media until the final “Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate Report” is published.
We thank those who donated to our crowd-funding appeal to support this preliminary work, and we
thank the Australian Federal Police and the Islamic Council of Victoria for their financial support. As a
charity we rely on public donations to make what we do possible. Donations are accepted
internationally, and donations from Australia are tax deductible. Please show your support for our
work by donating to the Online Hate Prevention Institute.
As a result of the spread of messages of hate online, our values of multiculturalism, religious
pluralism, and a fair go for all are being challenged. They are being challenged not only at public
rallies, but around the office coffee machine and the water cooler. The messages of hate are being
spread around the dinner table, both at home and when eating out in public. The messages of hate
which spread online are not staying online. They are shared through social media, and then in
person as mobile devices are used to show others memes and anti-Muslim messages. If we can
tackle the problem of online hate, we can make a real difference in the spread of hate both online
and through society.
The “Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate Report” provides the first significant empirical evidence
on the growing problem of anti-Muslim messages in social media. We believe more needs to be
done to tackle the rising problem of anti-Muslim hate. We believe in evidence based policies and
approaches. We give you this preliminary evidence, with more to follow in March. We hope you find
them both of interest, and of use.

Dr Andre Oboler
CEO, Online Hate Prevention Institute

Types of Anti-Muslim Hate
Debating any religion is not hate speech. However, when people use extreme and decontexualised
interpretations of religious doctrine to drum-up fear and hatred against all practitioners of the faith,
it crosses the line into hate speech. Such content refuses to acknowledge that not every adherent of
the religion interprets the text in such extreme ways. People’s religious practices can and should be
debated, however, when the debate’s purpose is to vilify the entire community, to claim they are all
incapable of integrating with other cultures, and to promote their isolation, exclusion and
marginalisation within society, then it becomes hate speech.
For a further discussion on the question of anti-Muslim Hate speech in social media, please see our
2013 report, “Islamophobia on the Internet: the growth of online hate targeting Muslims”. For a
discussion on the line between freedom of speech and hate speech when it comes to religion, and a
specific discussion about the cartoons of Mohammed, please and our “Je Suis Humain” report.
Anti-Muslim hate on social media usually falls into eight categories: presenting Muslims as terrorists
and a threat to public safety; promoting threats and violence against Muslims; dehumanising and
demonising Muslims; claiming Muslims are a "threat to our way of life"; claiming Muslims are
manipulative and dishonest; xenophobia against Muslims, including a specific focus on refugees;
efforts to undermine the resistance to hate against Muslims; and efforts to exclude Muslims from
society for example by preventing Halal certification of food, or the building of new mosques.
The graph below gives us a break up of all the items reported into our system by category.

Anti-Muslim hate classification subtypes
Other anti-Muslim hate, 4%
Socially excluding Muslims, 3%
Undermining Muslim allies, 5%
Muslims as dishonest, 3%

Muslims as a cultural threat, 33%

Xenophobia / anti-refugee, 7%

Inciting anti-Muslim violence, 9%

Muslims as a security risk, 19%

Figure 1 A breakdown of anti-Muslim Hate by Category

Demonising Muslims, 17%

This graph below gives us a break-up of items reported to FightAgainstHate.com per social media
platforms. More than 90 per cent of the items reports are from Facebook. However, this is not an
indication that there is more anti-Muslim hate present on Facebook. It only indicates that more
people reported anti-Muslim content from Facebook than Twitter and YouTube.

anti-Muslim hate classification subtypes
3%
5%

Facebook
YouTube
Twitter

92%

Presenting Muslims as terrorists and a threat to public safety
Implying that all Muslims are terrorists and a security threat is a popular theme on social media.
Usually such posts, images, videos or comments imply that all Muslims are terrorists or support
terrorism and violence or are generally violent, lawless and dangerous. It is aimed to instil fear of
Muslims in others. We share an example of the same below.

Muslims as a security risk
(Facebook)

20%
online
offline

80%

The promotion of threats and violence against Muslims
This category includes all speech which either threatens violence or incites violence against Muslim
individuals or the entire community. This also includes inciting the police to act violently towards
Muslims, or justifying violence towards them, or advocating genocide against Muslims. Even if not
directly meant, they further an atmosphere where violence towards Muslims is seen as acceptable
or justified.

Inciting anti-Muslim violence
(Facebook)

13%
online
offline

87%

The dehumanisation and demonization of Muslims
Demonisation of Muslims usually involves calling them collectively evil, criminal-minded or immoral.
Dehumanisation includes taking away their humanity by comparing them to animals or vermin or
sub humans. The purpose of both these acts is to suggest that Muslims are lesser or different from
normal human beings, and hence, are not deserving of the same rights that all humans deserve.

Demonising Muslims
(Facebook)

31%
online
offline

69%

Presenting Muslims as a “threat to our way of life”
This category includes items that imply that the Australian way of life is somehow threatened by the
presence of the Muslim community. They often suggest that Muslims want to impose Sharia Law
in the country, lead to “Islamification” or “Islamisation” of the country, and/or want to “take-over”
the country through immigration or demographics.

Muslims as a cultural threat
(Facebook)

18%
online
offline

82%

Presenting Muslims as manipulative and dishonest
The presentation of Muslims as manipulative and dishonest is an approach used to spread animosity
against Muslims. It aim is to disqualify the participation and integration by Muslims into
multicultural societies. This theme ranges from very basic images with slogans such as “never trust a
Muslim” through to a variety of images referring to what is claimed to be the Muslim doctrine of
Taqiyya.
Taqiyya is a Shia doctrine which its literal translation means is to “to shield or to guard oneself”
(Enayat 2005: 175). Under the practise of Taqiyya, Shia Muslims may pretend to be Sunni Muslims,
including by following Sunni prayer rituals, jurisprudence and by directly claiming to be Sunni rather
than Shia. The practice arose as means of protection from the persecution of rulers hostile to the
minority Shia sect of Islam, but continues to be practised in places like Indonesia not out of fear, but
as a means of establishing greater unity within the Muslim community.

Muslims as dishonest
(Facebook)

4%
online
offline

96%

Xenophobia against Muslims
This form of hate largely focuses on opposition to immigration of Muslims. This opposition often
focuses on refugees (those who have been granted refugee status by the United Nations) and
asylum seekers (those seeking to make a claim for refugee status), but when pushed, often
degenerates into a general form of hatred and fear of all Muslims (as discussed above).Often, such
content implies that all Muslim refugees and asylum seekers are faking their refugee status, intend
to migrate to abuse the welfare system, or that they should be sent to Muslim majority countries.

Xenophobia / anti-refugee
(Facebook)

6%
online
offline

94%

Undermining the resistance to hate against Muslims
Items in this category, try to suggest that anti-Muslim hate is acceptable. The usual tropes used are
suggesting that it is not racist to criticize Islam as people of many races practice it, or that they are
criticizing a set of ideas, or that it is our duty to fight the enemy (enemy being Muslims in our midst).
However, as such items are often presented in a larger context of creating fear and prejudice against
all Muslim people, and encouraging the marginalization of the community, they act like classic
racism.

Undermining Muslim allies
(Facebook)

4%
online
offline

96%

Seeking to exclude Muslims from Society
Another more indirect form of anti-Muslim hate seeks to exclude Muslims from society by removing
or preventing the development of the infrastructure a Muslim community needs. This form of antiMuslim hate includes attacks on the certification and stocking of Halal food, as well at political action
at the local government level in an effort to prevent planning approval for mosques, Muslim schools
and other infrastructure needed to support a Muslim community.

Socially excluding Muslims
(Facebook)

7%
online
offline

93%