‘Constantly on watch’: Inquiry hears about toll of online abuse Featured

Lawyer and human rights advocate Nyadol Nyuon no longer shares pictures of her children online, fearing for their safety as a result of the sustained abuse she has experienced on social media.

Speaking at a federal parliamentary inquiry into online safety, Ms Nyuon said a volumetric attack of online hatred was a key factor in her decision to take three months off work to “try and reconnect with a sense of safety”.

“I was struck across all social media platforms and trolled predominantly with racist abuse,” Ms Nyuon told the hearing on Wednesday.
“I am constantly on watch through the abuse that pops up almost on a daily basis.”

The federal government commissioned the inquiry to scrutinise the toxic effects of social media and to put a spotlight on the shortcomings of online platforms in responding to abusive conduct and hate speech.

Ms Nyuon, chair of refugee advocacy group Harmony Alliance, said she had struggled to obtain help for women from migrant communities who were subject to a “campaign of terror” of online abuse by men, which included sharing personal images without consent.

“There are instances where the abuse online is conducted entirely in language different than English, which means that reporting it to Facebook, or to the social media organisation, doesn’t do anything because it seems that they don’t have staff or sufficient staff to respond to this.”

Rita Jabri Markwel, a lawyer with the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network, said AI technology used by Facebook and others was failing to detect hate speech and dehumanising content, leaving minority groups like hers to pick up the burden of this responsibility.

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