Online Hate Prevention Institute turns eight

January 23, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), Australia’s only charity dedicated to tackling the problem of online hate and extremism starting its war with online hatemongers on this day in 2012.

Over eight years the organisation has built an international reputation for excellence and innovation tackling the spread of antisemitism and other forms of hate on major social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Though Dr Andre Oboler leads OHPI’s research and media work, there are many others involved as well. The founding directors of OHPI were James Altman, Dr Ron Weiser, Prof John Rosenberg, Jo Silver, Daniel Goodhardt, Manny Waks and Baden Hughes.

A total of 18 directors have served on the Board including Bernard Korbman, Peter Hersh and Martin Splitter. Nine people have at some point worked for the organisation, their roles ranging from research and projects to communications and software development. The cutting-edge tools developed by OHPI, which have been praised as innovative in reports by UNESCO [https://ohpi.org.au/ohpi-in-unesco-report-on-freedom-of-expression/], have been developed internally by OHPI’s staff and the contributions of over 20 final-year software engineering students from Monash University. Projects and campaigns have been supported by strategic communications students from La Trobe University. Over 24,400 people support the Online Hate Prevention Institute on Facebook.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute has generated an impressive record of real action and impact over the last eight years. Much of this work has involved the systematic documentation and analysis of online incidents and content. This has been coupled with campaigns to close online spaces designed to spread antisemitism and other forms of hate, as well as promoting reforms to make it harder for hate to be uploaded and spread.

The Institute’s 2016 report, “Measuring the Hate: The State of Antisemitism in Social Media” [https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ForeignPolicy/AntiSemitism/Pages/Measuring-the-Hate-Antisemitism-in-Social-Media.aspx], produced for the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, was the world’s first large scale empirical report into antisemitism on social media. It put numbers on just how badly social media companies were failing. Among other findings it showed that YouTube was removing just 30% of content promoting antisemitic violence, Twitter was removing just 20% of Holocaust denial and Facebook was removing just 27% of antisemitism related to Israel.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute has also played a significant role in combating antisemitic terrorism. When it documented the online elements of a deadly terrorist attack on a synagogue in Poway (near San Diego) last year, the Institute also engaged with technology platforms to get the terrorist’s manifesto, which called for further violence, removed. A report last month into another terrorist attack on a synagogue, this time in Germany, carried a powerful foreword from the European Commission’s coordinator on antisemitism [https://ohpi.org.au/hate-and-violent-extremism-from-an-online-subculture-the-yom-kippur-terrorist-attack-in-halle-germany/]. The new report warned of a new type of radicalisation inciting violence and recommended approaches for cooperation between governments, platforms and civil society to tackle this emerging threat.

Internationally, the Online Hate Prevention Institute has been involved in the leadership of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism and has played a role in Australia’s successful efforts to become a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The organisation has also presented on its work at the United Nations in New York, conferences on antisemitism and community cohesion locally and internationally, and to gatherings of technology professionals around the world [https://ieeetv.ieee.org/mobile/video/tackling-cyber-hate-incitement-and-dangerous-fake-news-andre-oboler-ignite-sections-congress-2017].

In a new partnership with the Council of Christians and Jews (Victoria), the Online Hate Prevention Institute has also begun training facilitators so they can run training sessions on tackling online hate in local communities around Victoria. A highly successful pilot session ran last November and a day of in-depth training is scheduled for February, with follow-up sessions every three months to help facilitators stay at the cutting edge of online developments.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute has also announced that in 2020 its primary focus will extend from its past focus on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to now include Instagram. A briefing published over the weekend[https://ohpi.org.au/instagram-needs-help/], one of almost 200 the institute has published since it began publishing briefings in 2014, demonstrated the problem giving a number of examples of antisemitism and other forms of hate and instructions to facilitate reporting. Just a few days later, all of the listed content has been removed and the accounts that hosted it closed. The new focus will no doubt see this repeated on a regular basis and build pressure for Instagram to improve its systems.

The anniversary announcement also shared the Institute’s plans for 2020, including a series of month-long campaigns on different types of hate. A campaign on online Holocaust denial will launch on January 27th, Holocaust Memorial Day, run throughout February while a campaign on Antisemitism will run through June. These will be in addition to the regular focus on these issues throughout the year.

In eight years, much has been achieved, but much more still needs to be done. The need for the Online Hate Prevention Institute and its specialist work tackling antisemitism is greater than ever.

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