Grants announcement — community grants that help to minimise online harms
Ciara Arnot Community Advisor •
As InternetNZ works towards an Internet that benefits all New Zealanders, a necessary element involves understanding and working to minimise the harms. We want to support affected communities as they grapple with the rising incidence of online extremism, racism, transphobia, and hate motivated abuse online (‘dangerous speech’). Today we can share some more projects that received grant funding with this focus.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa, High Quality Information and Support for Gender Minorities in Aotearoa
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (GMA) is a nationwide transgender organisation run by and for transgender people. They have a vision for transgender people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, to be empowered by a full range of choices across all aspects of their lives, and to be able to participate fully in society. For example, providing one-to-one peer support, information and resources, advocacy, and consultation in the private and public sector.
In 2021, they provided over 2,000 peer support engagements and had 500 visitors to their drop-in centre.
Gender minorities (including transgender people both binary and non-binary, and indigenous genders such as takatāpui irawhiti) are targets of harassment and discrimination both online and offline. This harassment and discrimination contributes to trans people experiencing psychological distress at much higher rates than the general population, and leads to isolation, elevated levels of self-harm, and other forms of harm.
With InternetNZ funding, GMA will be able to increase staff time for providing these critical services. They will address online harassment, misinformation, and disinformation by supporting trans people and educating their communities.
In addition to one-on-one peer support, they will disseminate high quality, locally sourced information by, for, and about trans people to counteract misinformation and disinformation. They will continue to facilitate safe online spaces for trans people to discuss issues and share solutions. GMA operate the largest online transgender support group in Aotearoa New Zealand, ‘Transgender and intersex NZ’, which provides connection for 2,100+ trans people and their whānau as well as the largest rainbow community housing group ‘Rainbow housing NZ’, which serves over 3,100 members. GMA staff moderate these groups carefully to ensure that they remain safer spaces free of harassment.
Manukau Institute of Technology, Assessing the Impact of Online hate-speech in Aotearoa using sentiment-analysis
Incidents of extremism often instigate hate speech and the spread of harmful content targeting a particular community. Dangerous content online frequently inspires or influences hateful behaviour and attitudes.
Sentiment analysis has been used extensively to extract text knowledge to identify sentiment-based content. Traditional approaches use a set of fixed words or combinations to determine and label the sentence and may not provide expected results.
Dr Sreenivas Sremath Tirumala is kicking off a research project at MIT which aims to provide a report on forms of systematic hate provocation faced by the Muslim community directly or indirectly through qualitative and quantitative analysis based on the information available through online resources (secondary data).
Using Internet NZ funding, Dr Tirumala, Dr. Tirumala will conduct extensive review of literature and gather information from online sources including reports, newspaper articles, social media etc. This data will be used to build a dictionary which could be used to train an AI-model for categorising content. A plug in or tool will be designed to predict / warn about dangerous content in real-time using AI based model. This model is generic and could be applicable to any type of dangerous content when trained using respective data dictionary.
Lady Khadija Trust, From hate to hurt - Impact of online hate
Lady Khadija Trust was established in 2016 with the charitable objective to empower communities through compassion. They often act as a bridge, working collaboratively with organisations supporting individuals and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. From hate to hurt - Impact of online hate, will form the building blocks for a larger piece of work that aims to move beyond hate and bias to a place of trust and compassion.
This project will dive deep into why online hate gets amplified online, defining hate and harm and looking to understand the legislations around it and how other countries have navigated these issues. This would be driven by research around content recommendations and algorithm transparency and bring in the counterspeech discussion for example, in a democracy based on the historical research, what does civil society need?
The Trust aims to highlight the impacts of online harms by eventually developing a series of short documentary-style clips featuring people who have experienced this kind of abuse with a vision of a more compassionate future base on trust and understanding. The Trust has previously developed similar content showcasing diversity and migrant journeys. Given the delicate subject matter, the first step is to understand the context and ensure any contributors to this developing project can be kept safe and their stories honoured.
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.