Algorithms of hate: How the Internet facilitates the spread of racism and how public policy might help stem the impact

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 2018, 151 (1), pp. 69 - 81
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© The Royal Society of NSW. Complex multicultural societies hold together through effective and interactive communication, which reinforces civility, enhances information sharing, and facilitates the expression of interests while permitting both diversity and commonality. While trust is an important cement in the building of social cohesion, multicultural societies face continuing challenges as their ever-extending populations test the trust necessary to constitute supportive, bridging social capital. The Internet, which has become a crucial component of the communication systems in modern societies, offers both opportunities and challenges, especially in the generation and circulation of race hate speech which attacks social cohesion and aims to impose singular and exclusive racial, ethnic or religious social norms. The Internet in Australia remains problematic for four key reasons. The underlying algorithms that produce social media and underpin the profitability of the huge domains of Facebook and Alphabet also facilitate the spread of hate speech online. With very limited constraints on hate speech, the Australian Internet makes it easy to be racist. Human/computer interactions allow for far greater user disinhibition, which suits the proclivities of those more manipulative and sadistic users of the Internet. All of this is occurring in a post-truth world where racially, religiously and nationalistically inflected ideologies spread fairly much unchecked, and discourses of violence become everywhere more apparent. Australia has opportunities to do something about this situation in this country, yet we see around us a lethargy and acceptance of technological determinism. The paper assesses these claims and proposes some ways forward that are evidence-based, and collaborative, scholarly and social.
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