Internet hate speech raises concerns

Massey University's Pro Vice-Chancellor Paul Spoonley believes New Zealand can no longer ignore the rise in hate speech online. Today prominent figures came together to discuss hate speech and how it might be regulated in the future.

Leaders throughout New Zealand came together today to discuss what they believe is a growing concern having impacts on communities. Amongst those panelists who spoke to internet users in Wellington was Māori broadcaster, Stacey Morrison. Mrs Morrison says a conversation about hate speech online is critical. 

"It's important that we start having those conversations now and talking about the definitions of hate speech."

Professor Spoonley says "What we are trying to do is identify what hate speech means in a New Zealand context and we're not even sure how widespread hate speech is."

With more New Zealanders utilising social media and the internet, Professor Spoonley says it's given fuel to those using digital platforms to convey hate speech and that regulation in the future could be needed.

"It's something that we want to say it's unacceptable and in the future, we'd wonder why people in 2018 said the things that they did."

Mrs Morrison says "It is hoped that how you treat someone up front is the same as how you would talk to someone online and whether you can ask yourself is what I'm saying online what I would truly say to someone's face? "

With a definition of hate speech yet to be determined in New Zealand, there are growing concerns about how incidents are dealt with online.

"It's not that we believe there should be regulations now," says Mrs Morrison. "However if this issue isn't addressed within society, then perhaps we may be forced to have hate speech regulated."

Professor Spoonley says with no definition of hate speech it's hard to pinpoint how big the problem actually is.