Responding to hate speech during COVID-19 webinar and panel discussion

While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and our public health system have been well documented, the crisis has also given rise to a diverse range of social harms. Among these is the increase in incidents of hate speech targeting members of various ethnic and religious minorities, both online and offline. In a recent webinar, academics, policy makers, and community leaders came together to discuss how to understand and respond effectively to contemporary hate speech.

During the current health crisis, people of Chinese and East Asian origins have become the main targets of a recent upsurge in hate speech. However, other minority populations have been impacted as well. For example, we're also witnessing an increase in Islamophobic incidents.

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in hate speech, the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre (MMIC) hosted an expert-led webinar on Thursday 30 July 2020 3:00-4:30pm (AEST) via Zoom. In the event, we explored why we are witnessing a proliferation of hate speech and how best to respond to it.

Our panel of leading academics, policy makers, and community leaders discussed whether this phenomenon is unique to the current pandemic, or reflective of a pattern evident in other social, economic, and health crises. Each of the five invited speakers discussed and debated a series of questions, and responded to a range of questions from webinar attendees.

The event was hosted by the Monash University Dean of Arts, Professor Sharon Pickering, and featured the following panel members:

  • Dr Matteo Bonotti, Monash University and the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre
  • Professor Kathrine Gelber University of Queensland and leading academic expert on hate speech
  • Mr Chin Tan Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Ms Vivienne Nguyen Chairperson, The Victorian Multicultural Commission
  • Ms Erin Wen Ai Chew National Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance and co-creator of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report

The event also featured a short video presentation from Professor Imran Awan of Birmingham City University, co-author (with Roxana Khan-Williams) of the recent research briefing report Coronavirus, Fear, and how Islamophobia Spreads on Social Media that was prepared on behalf of the UK Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group.

A research brief has been published by MMIC that provides an systematic overview of contemporary research on the topic, and a video recording of the event is available below.