Can I spend time on social media without fear of being racially abused?

Social media creates a space of hypervisibility in which the ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ worlds overlap. The freedom to connect online is contrasted, for many, with the fear or experience of racial abuse.

A recent report found 88% of Indigenous Australians had seen racism towards other Indigenous people on social media.1 Of those respondents, 21% reported having received threats from other users, and 17% indicated that these had impacted their ‘offline’ lives.2


A separate study of online media revealed that comments sections are a place where racism runs rampant. A survey of 2900 comments using text analysis software found that comments tend to replicate and amplify racist themes, creating an echo-chamber that reinforces racial vilification and abuse online.3 Those targeted by racism online report feelings of fear, helplessness, sadness, worry, anger and disappointment.4


Complaints systems and regulatory regimes can be slow and confusing for some, making it difficult for targets of online racism to access support and act against racism.5 This also makes it difficult to identify and de-platform those who perpetrate racism online. The ease with which perpetrators can set up fake accounts often provides them with the safety of anonymity, allowing for online hate to continue.6 Racist literature and platforms can also facilitate the radicalisation of perpetrators and translate into offline acts of physical violence.7


The online world provides a veil of anonymity where blatant racism is often masked and excused as ‘humour’.8 Studies show how humour is used as a tool to perpetuate racism and has been shown to increase tolerance of racism in the public.9


However, we don’t have to stand by when witnessing racism online. Report racist comments when you see them. Visit the Responding to Racism section of this website for more information.


By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.



It stops with me.


Bronwyn Carlson and Ryan Frazer, Social Media Mob: Being Indigenous Online (Report, March 2018) <>.

Bronwyn Carlson and Ryan Frazer, Social Media Mob: Being Indigenous Online (Report, March 2018) <>.

All Together Now, Social commentary and racism in 2019 (Report, 2019) <>.

Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2018-2019 (Report No 3, 2019) 139 <>.

Australian Human Rights Commission, Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims (Report, 2021)<>.

Asian Australian Alliance and Osmond Chiu, COVID-19 Coronavirus Racism Incident Report (Report, 2020) 16 <>.

7 Derya Iner, Islamophobia in Australia 2017-2018 (Report No 2, 2019) 141 <>.

8Ariadna Matamoros-Fernandez, ‘Platformed racism: the mediation and circulation of an Australian race-based controversy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’ (2017) 20(6) Information, Communication & Society 930.

Andrew Jakubowicz et al, Cyber Racism and Community Resilience: Strategies for Combating Online Race Hate, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).