What do you do when you witness racism and racial abuse online?

Why should you do something?

It can be difficult for targets of racist behaviours to confront perpetrators. Research shows that when a third party (a bystander) intervenes it can: 

·       Provide emotional support to the person targeted;

·       Discourage the perpetrator from repeating the behaviour; and 

·       Contribute to a culture that condemns racist and racially discriminatory behaviours. 

In volatile and aggressive environments, it can be particularly important to demonstrate to the person involved and the wider community that certain behaviours are not appropriate, and potentially against the law.

What are bystanders?

A bystander is a person who witnesses something but is not directly involved in it. You can be a bystander if you are told about an incident or if you witness racist behaviour in a setting, including online.

An active bystander is someone who takes action after witnessing racist behaviour. In the online space, this can range from supportive behaviour to speaking out or reporting the behaviour. 

No matter what you do, make sure that you feel safe to act. If an online space doesn’t feel safe, you can show support in different ways. 

Active bystanding also includes taking action to challenge systems and culture that supports racist and racially discriminatory behaviours.

Active bystanding: What you can do if you are a bystander

If you feel safe to act, you can carry out one of the actions on the action ladder below. Generally, actions higher up the ladder are stronger ways of discouraging racist behaviour. The more intentional, severe and explicit the behaviour of the perpetrator, the higher the level of action the bystander may take. 

Actions towards the bottom of the ladder are appropriate when the bystander is worried about putting themselves or the targeted person at risk. While inexcusable and unacceptable, in some circumstances certain racist behaviours may be unintentional and/or caused by ingrained beliefs, values and practices, and may suit actions listed at the bottom of the ladder.


Report the behaviour

Facebook/Instagram report post

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Community Reporting Tool

This tool is anonymous and does not lead to any punishment. VEOHRC may use the information to shape its educational policies and advocacy work

Make a complaint to the eSafety Commissioner about seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating behaviour.

https://www.esafety.gov.au/report/cyberbullying

For serious threats to personal safety, call the police in your state or 131 444, a national police assistance line. 

Most State and Territory Police services have special units working on computer crime and may be able to help you further.


Call out and educate

Calmly disagree and publicly declare the action or statement to be racist or discriminatory


Diffuse the situation

Make a lighthearted comment or question to try to stop the situation. This may be more useful when you know the perpetrator or when you are worried about a power imbalance.


Support the victim

and people who are calling out the behaviour

“Like” comments that disagree with the statement

Private message the victim to express disapproval, ask if they are okay, or offer to help progress the matter.

Private message someone who has called out the behaviour to let them know you support them.


Report the behaviour

–       Facebook/Instagram report post

–       Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Community Reporting Tool

This tool is anonymous and does not lead to any punishment. VEOHRC may use the information to shape its educational policies and advocacy work

–       Make a complaint to the eSafety Commissioner about seriously threatening, intimidating, harassing or humiliating behaviour.

https://www.esafety.gov.au/report/cyberbullying

– For serious threats to personal safety, call the police in your state or 131 444, a national police assistance line. 

Most State and Territory Police services have special units working on computer crime and may be able to help you further.

Call out and educate

Calmly disagree and publicly declare the action or statement to be racist or discriminatory

Diffuse the situation

Make a lighthearted comment or question to try to stop the situation. This may be more useful when you know the perpetrator or when you are worried about a power imbalance.

Support the victim and people who are calling out the behaviour

–       “Like” comments that disagree with the statement

–       Private message the victim to express disapproval, ask if they are okay, or offer to help progress the matter

–       Private message someone who has called out the behaviour to let them know you support them.

What if I’m a target?

You can use any of the range of behaviours in the table above. 

If you feel that it is beyond that, you can contact your local Community Legal Centre for advice, or contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or Australian Human Rights Commissions for advice and help about their complaint mechanisms and conciliation services.

Useful resources

Australian Human Rights Commission, Complaints form

https://humanrights.gov.au/complaints/make-complaint

Australian Human Rights Commnission, “Racial Discrimination”

https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/GPGB_racial_discrimination.pdf

Australian Human Rights Commission, “Cyber Racism”

https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/projects/cyber-racism

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Complaints form

https://makeacomplaint.humanrights.vic.gov.au

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, “Race Discrimination and Racial Vilification”

https://www.humanrights.vic.gov.au/for-individuals/race/