Grants announcement — community building to combat online hate
Ciara Arnot Community Advisor •
Visible public online hate and violent extremism are on the rise. These problems disproportionately affect communities that are already overburdened and under-resourced. In Aotearoa, we often see marginalised communities targeted. We have spent the last couple of months talking with these groups, learning from them, and gaining a better understanding of their experiences. We honour every person who reached out to kōrero with us and share their vision for a better future online and an Internet that benefits Aotearoa. Many of the groups we spoke to talked about community building, and we are happy to share some of the projects awarded funding.
Shore Junction, Shore Junction Discord - Virtual Youth Centre
Shore Junction is a youth innovation hub operating in the heart of Takapuna. Young people can go there to connect, learn, and grow. They work with all young people aged 13 to 24 in the areas of art, technology, community, enterprise, music and STEM.
Shore Junction officially opened in March 2021 but is governed by the YES Disability Resource Centre who have been working with young adults with disabilities for over 15 years. Not to be limited by social distancing restrictions, they created a virtual youth centre on Discord.
Initially intended to engage with young people during lockdowns, Shore Junction's Discord channel has now grown exponentially and become a community for all young people across Aotearoa, creating a safe space to connect rangatahi across the motu. The constant evolution of this Virtual Youth Centre and the success of their hands-on approach is down to the dedication and hard work of their youth workers. They bring empathy, lived experience and skills, including training on how to stay safe online with young people.
To continue this work, now that the physical space is back in action, funding from our on-demand grant will pay a dedicated youth worker. He is uniquely qualified to moderate the channel and part of his role will be running weekly online 'Rainbow Junction' sessions. The space has had high engagement from young queer and disabled folk, so offering paid employment and training opportunities to this young, visually impaired transgender man is fitting, he has amazing skills in youth work, digital design, youth facilitation. With staggering uncertainties facing our rangitahi, we are glad to support this mahi and see how the online space can continue to grow and help more people.
The University of Otago, Tagging in: Learning from social media' admins' as community leaders.
Social media is a crucial space for identity-based community formation. 'Admins' of large groups, pages, or accounts often play key leadership roles in such communities. The part of ‘admin’, is an untrained, unpaid, under-recognised position. Sitting somewhere between formal/paid platform moderators and general platform users, in practice this role involves considerable labour, responsibility, and skill in responding to harmful, hateful, abusive or dangerous speech within, or on behalf of, the community. Many admins are also public advocates or activists. However, despite the proliferation of this kind of labour, there are little to no funding, training, resources, or support services they can access related to this work.
A group of researchers from the University of Otago have joined forces on this research project which aims to learn from and build capacity amongst admins and leaders in online communities that are common targets of dangerous speech. This work will draw on the combined expertise of Dr Susan Wardell, Dr Fairleigh Gilmour, Dr Melanie Beres, and Cassie Withey-Rila.
Focusing on Aotearoa, this project will record and analyse these leaders speaking about their experiences and strategies in responding to dangerous speech. Initially, they will focus on leaders within rainbow and gender-diverse communities; and disabled, chronically ill, or
neurodivergent communities. The researchers can bring their academic expertise to bear on their own lived experiences of being embedded within these groups. While each community faces unique challenges, drawing together insight from community leaders across various spheres will highlight commonalities in experience and practice.
These insights will benefit other marginalised groups who experience online discrimination - with the goal of running a shared online hui so that participating leaders and others can interact, share support, and build networks of their own. This will lead to the development of an accessible graphic resource to be shared publicly online.
Multicultural Nelson Tasman, "Tauiwi Tautoko" Nelson Tasman: addressing online racism in our region.
In 2022 Multicultural Nelson Tasman will offer a group of volunteers from Te Tau Ihu (the top of the South Island) the chance to participate in the highly regarded and evidence-led Tauiwi Tautoko programme. Developed by Victoria University academic Dr Emily Beausoleil and campaigning organisation ActionStation, Tauiwi Tautoko (non-Maori in support) is a free training programme. It gives people skills to challenge racism online and offline, helping people engage with opposing views in an empathetic and thoughtful way.
Volunteers from Whakatu will be able to join other cohorts from around Aotearoa to tackle racism and contribute to a growing online network of allies.
Multicultural Nelson Tasman manager Anna Fyfe said racism isn't going anywhere. "[They] want to know what they can do to help stop racism, and how they can be better allies ... we think that the Tauiwi Tautoko approach is a good place to start".
The racism we see online is symptomatic of real-world attitudes, so part of this programme is listening and trying to work out what is behind a racist comment. Beausoleil said, "If you're authentic, people are thrown off, they go from aggressive to apologising." The tactics used in this programme so far have led to more respectful and empathetic comments.
Tauiwi Tautoko involves two face-to-face workshops in April and June, and a 10-week online course with facilitators and other volunteers from around the country. This cohort kicked off last week.
Each year InternetNZ uses profits from the sale of .nz domain names to give out community funding. They provide funding for community-led initiatives that extend the availability, use, and benefit of the Internet in Aotearoa.
These initiatives received funding in 2021.