Cyber Racism and Community Resilience

The Cyber Racism and Community Resilience research project is a joint project involving a number of Australian Universities with support from industry partners. The Chief Investigators on the project are Professor Andrew Jakubowicz (University of Technology Sydney), Professor Kevin Dunn (Western Sydney University), Professor Yin Paradies (Deakin University), Professor Gail Mason (University of Sydney), Dr Ana-Maria Bliuc (Western Sydney University) and Dr Nasya Bahfen (RMIT University). The project is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

The Project

Cyber-racism is an increasingly important social phenomenon. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) advised that over 30% of racial complaints in 2009-10 were concerned with Internet racism (Innes, 2011). VicHealth identified cyber-racism as a key priority for its program on racism and well- being (VicHealth, 2009). Australia has arguably one of the highest proportional uses of social media in the advanced Western world, with Australian Internet users spending the most time visiting social networks and blogs (Neilsen, 2011). As such, Australians are potentially more exposed to cyber-racism than residents of other countries.

Researchers have begun unpacking and analysing on-line hate pages and groups. But, in general, there is an astounding lack of data that investigates the frequency, affect, and response to online racist content, and zero assessment of the effectiveness of regulatory measures for dealing with online racism. The overall project seeks to examine the production of, prevalence of, exposure to, and strategies for responding to and limiting the negative impact of cyber-racism. One element of this project involved a survey of regular internet users to investigate the ways in which they encounter and respond to cyber-racism, the impact of these encounters, how well regulation is working, and encounters with or experiences of anti-racism online.


The survey used established prompts on encounters with different types of racism (name- calling, exclusion, violent incitement, discrimination, etc.) narrowed and adapted to those likely to be apparent within the internet. The survey also examined the extent of the morbid effects of such encounters (sense of wellbeing, belonging, etc.), and the actions taken by respondents (report, formal complaint, ignore, engage with, etc.).

The survey was contracted to a commercial survey provider, MyOpinion, who provided two online panels: one reflecting the demographics of the Australian population aged 15-54 as at the 2011 Census (mirroring the ethnic diversity of Australia) ; the other identifying groups significantly at risk of racism, including Australians from the following groups:

  1. Indigenous Australians,
  2. Australians of North African and Middle Eastern background,
  3. Australians of South- East Asian background,
  4. Australians from North-East Asian background and
  5. Australians from Southern and Central Asian background. Panel participants self-nominated to participate in the survey.

The data was collected in December 2013 and the total number of respondents was n= 2141.

Preliminary Findings

  • Prevalence of racism is high.
  • Platforms of highest encounter (relative to exposure) are Facebook, online news commentary, and YouTube.
  • Platforms of least encounter (relative to exposure) are Twitter and email.
  • Response/reaction is higher online than not online.
  • Targets are more (re)active than witnesses (with the exception of de-friending tools).
  • The most common forms of response are 'within platform', i.e. reporting the content and blocking or de-friending the author.
  • Disgust (especially witnesses) and anger (especially targets) are prevalent.
  • Morbidities were demonstrated for targets, but also resilience was apparent, i.e. a quarter of those who had been targets of racism were able to laugh it off.
  • Aboriginals are a focus of cyber racism in Australia (followed by Middle Eastern and Muslim Australians).

Conclusions so far

  • Racism and racists are in the cyber-world.
  • Cyber-racism adds to the morbidity load associated with racism.
  • Current practices around reporting and management of racist content are too idiosyncratic and are not transparent.
  • More sophisticated regulatory measures are needed: starting with recording and reporting.


Faulkner, N., & Bliuc, A. M. (2016). 'It's okay to be racist': moral disengagement in online discussions of racist incidents in Australia. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1-19.

Jakubowicz, A. Dunn, Kevin M., Mason, G. Paradies, Y. Bliuc, A-M. Bahfen, N. Atie, R. Connelly, K. (2017) Cyber Racism and Community Resilience (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke), (Chapter 3 "How cyber users experience and respond to racism: evidence from an online survey"), in press.

Dunn K. M. Paradies Y., Atie R., Priest N. (2016) The morbid effects associated with racism experienced by immigrants: findings from Australia, in Renzaho, A. (Ed.) Globalisation, Migration and Health: Challenges and Opportunities, 509-531 (Chapter 15) Basingstoke: World Scientific.

Jakubowicz, A., Nelson, J., Paradies, Y. Dunn, Kevin M., Atie, R., Bliuc, A-M., Bahfen, N., Mason, G. (2016) Submission re: Inquiry: Freedom of speech in Australia Prepared by the CyberRacism and Community Resilience (CRaCR) Research Group, 9th December, 2016.

Paradies, Y., Bliuc, A-M., Bahfen, N., Mason, G., Jakubowicz, A., Dunn, Kevin M., Nelson, J., Atie, R. (2014) Submission re: Freedom of Speech (Repeal of S. 18C) Bill 2014 Prepared by the CyberRacism and Community Resilience (CRaCR) Research Group, 28th April, 2014.

Jakubowicz, A (2017) What did Galaxy's poll tell us about freedom of speech and 18C? Not what the IPA said it did, The Conversation, Feb 1st.