Understanding and countering the influence of cyber racism on Australian world views

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In an age when the Internet allows the proliferation of race hate and vilification with increasing speed and impact, liberal democratic societies need to understand the implications of this trend and curb its influence. However, research in this field is only beginning to develop, with work in Australia so far primarily focused on everyday racism and anti-racism. The Australian Cyber Racism and Community Resilience (CRaCR) Project, to which I was attached to as the higher degree research student, is the first in Australia to make these areas a major focus of research. The CRaCR project explores the phenomenon of cyber racism, drawing on a range of social science perspectives. This thesis adds an important and unique anthropological perspective, which examines how the greater proliferation of racism on social media impacts on the worldviews of Internet users. Given the cultural diversity in multicultural nations such as Australia, countering cyber racism through the promotion of community resilience demands a sophisticated insight into how more tolerant and cosmopolitan worldviews may be corroded or, alternatively reinforced and cultivated. Four case studies were conducted on Facebook and Twitter over varying periods. A narrative approach and the anthropological perspective allowed the development of an understanding of the worldviews of the authors in the context of cultural exclusion in Australia. The value of a narrative approach is in the way it enables analysis that draws out the underlying meaning in the social media posts and its potential influence on those that interact with it. The premise of this methodology is that the proliferation of societal narratives on social media, such as those found in the case studies, may influence individual and ultimately national worldviews related to cultural exclusion. The research questions were designed to understand these phenomena in the context of the enabling characteristics of social media. The findings show that a culturally inclusive worldview is undermined in Australia through the reproduction of narratives that promote cultural exclusion and foster the denial of racism and white privilege. The ease of interaction, favouring of free speech and lack of legal consequences on social media platforms also contribute to the development and growth of communities with racist worldviews. In contrast, community resilience case studies show that target groups can build social media communities that put forward alternative narratives, which promote cultural inclusion, challenge negative stereotypes and work against the denial of racism and an uncritical acceptance of white privilege. These narratives support community resilience by creating safe spaces on Facebook and Twitter where target groups and their supporters can come together to develop and spread worldviews that counter racist influences. The community resilience case studies in this research demonstrate the potential for future action against racism on social media that is not just relevant in an Australian context but could be applied internationally.
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