Notes on Methodology

UMR survey

We commissioned UMR Research to conduct an online survey of people of colour in New Zealand to measure the extent and impact of racialised online abuse.

The survey asked 618 Māori, Pacific and Asian people their experiences, and the results were weighted by age, gender, and ethnicity.

The breakdown of respondents is as follows: Māori (n=210), Pacific (n=205) and Asian (n=203) respondents. The survey asked about social media usage, experiences of online harassment and the impact of that harassment.

Fieldwork was conducted from the 8th to the 20th of August 2018.

Story collection

We also used an online form to gather personal stories of online harassment. We asked 12 questions covering the context of the abuse, platform, and the abuser. We had 69 in depth responses from around New Zealand.

The limitations of this are substantial. Those driven of social media by harassment are significantly less likely to have seen and taken part in the survey, meaning people facing the worst cases of harassment likely do not have their voices represented here.

The experience of serious harassment is traumatic, and this likely discouraged some who have experiences to relive them by taking part in the survey. On average it took people 15 minutes to complete the survey, meaning it took a significant amount of time, which likely discouraged some people with detailed experiences.

The full text of the survey form we used to solicit stories from individuals with experience of harassment online is below.

  1. Did you experience the abuse, witness it or both?

    1. Experienced abuse

    2. Witnessed abuse

    3. Both

  2. On which website or platform did you experience or witness abuse and harassment?

    1. Twitter

    2. Facebook

    3. Instagram

    4. YouTube

    5. WhatsApp

  3. What was the context of the abuse? E.g. did it happen in the context of an online discussion of a specific topic?

  4. Did the abuse and harassment happen in a private message, in a public comment (e.g. in a comment thread on Facebook or Twitter), in both or something else?

    1. Public

    2. Private

    3. Both

  5. What do you know about the person/account responsible for the abuse? E.g. was it one person, or more than one? Were they someone who you know, someone who you don’t know but who was easy to identify, or someone anonymous. Did you have reason to suspect the abuse was being generated by an organised attack?  Or reason to think the attack was being made by a bot or bots? If so please tell us more about that.

  6. What forms did the abuse and harassment take? E.g. direct or indirect threats of violence, sexist, sexually explicit, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or racist language, comments or images (and whether or not they were directed at you or not), comments or images that insult a particular religion or culture, other abusive language, comments or images, or posting your personal details with the aim to cause you alarm or stress?

  7. Do you think any of the following had to do with the online abuse you faced?

    1. Your ethnicity

    2. Your gender

    3. Your sexual orientation

    4. Your religion

    5. Your political affiliation

    6. Your job

    7. None of the above

  8. [Logic jump if A - F chosen above] Could you tell us more about that?

  9. Thank you, now we want to ask about the impact of this online abuse and harassment.

  10. How did the abuse and harassment affect you emotionally, psychologically and socially? E.g. did it make you feel that your own safety or the safety of a family member or friend was threatened, that your job or job prospects may be threatened, were you less able to focus on everyday tasks, to concentrate, to make day-to-day decisions, did it affect your ability to sleep, or to accomplish what you usually would in a day. Did you experience panic attacks, anxiety or stress, a feeling of apprehension when receiving emails or social media notifications, lower self-esteem or a loss of self confidence or mood swings. Did you feel powerless, isolated?

  11. Since experiencing abuse/harassment on social media, has your usage of those social media platforms changed? E.g. have you stopped using the social media platforms, used them less, blocked users who were responsible for the abuse or harassment, made your account private or protected, increased the privacy or security settings on your account, or changed your use of social media in any other way?

  12. Since experiencing abuse/harassment on social media, has the type of content that you posted on those social media platforms changed? E.g. have you stopped posting or sharing content that expresses your opinion on certain issues, and if so, which issues? Have you stopped posting or sharing some other kind of content, and if so which kind? How else have you changed the content you post on these social media platforms.

  13. What needs to happen? Based on what you have seen, heard or read, what response would you like to see from the Government, Parliament, the police and the tech companies (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and Google) to addressing online abuse and harassment in New Zealand?

Prevalence of racism on Stuff and Facebook comments analysis

Racism has been defined in different ways at different times by different disciplines but at the core of racism is ‘an ideology of racial discrimination’ (The Bridge over the Racial Divide: Rising Inequality and Coalition Politics by Wilson, W.J). In her report to the Race Relations Commissioner, Jenny Rankine defines racism as:

‘An ideology of superiority embedded in powerful institutions and social norms that create and maintain avoidable and oppressive systems of inequality between dominant and other ethnic and cultural groups.’

Rankine’s report outlines the history of racism in Aotearoa New Zealand noting the impact of colonisation, historical discrimination against Māori and other cultural groups (particularly Chinese, Indian and Pasifika immigrants) and how particular historical events can suddenly alter the climate around racism. Examples in New Zealand include the 1974 ‘dawn raids’ looking for illegal Pasifika immigrants, the 1981 Springbok tour and Don Brash’s 2004 Orewa speech. As time goes by, and as these and other events influence what is acceptable to say and do, the nature of racism has changed to be more complex. Some argue that as racism is increasingly acknowledged and called out, Pākehā are increasingly anxious about their place in Aotearoa and resort to more subtle forms of racism to maintain the status quo.

This ‘modern racism’ is just as harmful as the most obvious forms. Rankine states that ethnicity is less likely to be mentioned in new racist arguments. Instead contemporary forms of racism defend dominant values, exaggerate cultural differences, deny that serious racism or prejudice still exist and claim that inequality is a result of individuals’ own actions. This type of racism ignores the processes, structures and systems that are instigated and valued by the dominant group. Overt racism is increasingly taboo and unlawful under the Human Rights Act. As a result denial of racist comments, actions or systems has become another way of protecting and defending white privilege. The analysis of the Tauiwi Tautoko project data presented in this report was informed by these understandings of racism.

Because of the extent of data involved in the Tauiwi Tautoko data project, which is not straightforward (responses to articles may include comments on the articles, responses to comments, exchanges between individuals, likes, dislikes, moderator removal of some comments) analysing the data was a challenge. The decision was made to focus on only one week and provide a picture of the extent and nature of the type of online comments. The week we chose to focus on is September 10th until 16th. This was te wiki o te reo Māori so there was particular interest in and media reports about Māori language and culture during this week.

The coding of the data was informed by Rankine’s report described above as well as Kupu Taea: Media and te Tiriti Project and Max Harris’s “The New Zealand Project.” From these sources fifteen themes were developed and comments were coded as racist if they include any of the following characteristics:

  1. Compares Māori culture to dominant Pākehā or other cultures, stating or implying that it is inferior, less important, wrong, irrelevant or insignificant.

  2. Uses stereotypes and/or exaggerations to describe Māori culture, individuals or groups which reduces and simplifies complex and variable ideas, customs and behaviour.

  3. Conflates Pakeha values, norms and mores with New Zealand values, norms and mores and/or states that Māori values, norms and mores are irrelevant or not useful to NZ and New Zealanders/self.

  4. Deny that racism exists or that it is insignificant compared to the past or in other places or groups in the population (such as the elderly or conservative groups).

  5. Suggest that inequalities or differences are the fault of minority cultural groups and it is their responsibility to keep their culture alive. Also includes comments about the majority of Māori not being interested in their culture or language.

  6. Deny that historical injustice to Māori occurred or that it is not as bad as it could have been or not as bad as it is in other countries or that is how things were done back then

  7. Claim that inequality does not exist or that everyone has equal opportunities.

  8. Criticise or judge minority cultures for not adhering to the dominant Pākehā values, behaviours or views.

  9. Describe Māori cultural values or perspectives as threatening or challenging to the accepted way of being or doing things or are imposing their values on others. Includes stating that addressing Māori needs and rights is undemocratic, not in the interest of the majority or impinges on others’ human rights.

  10. Deny white privilege and state that it is actually Pākehā who are the victims of racism, discrimination or political correctness.

  11. Purport that everyone has equal opportunities so any demands or requirements for special treatment or reparation for previous harm are unjustified.

  12. Contend that Māori have already received enough additional support and reparation for historical injustice is complete or that it’s impractical or impossible to right past wrongs and that any claims or demands by Māori are unjustified, greedy or money-seeking.

  13. Question whether Māori are the tangata whenua of Aotearoa/New Zealand with strong spiritual, cultural and historical connections to this land.

  14. Maintain that we are all kiwis, New Zealanders, immigrants or ‘mixed race’ and that acknowledging cultural difference is divisive or intended to cause trouble.

  15. Stating that te Tiriti o Waitangi is irrelevant and/or blocking future development.

The criteria required for a comment to be included in the positive count comments needed to engage in a thoughtful, caring, open, and inquisitive way and provide some re-education if it was relevant or welcome because that was the goal of the Tauiwi Tautoko project.

Facebook comments were more difficult to code than the Stuff comments because often Facebook commenters know each other and there are personal exchanges and accusations or humorous exchanges. Sometimes it is difficult to read the tone of the comments, particularly if they are sarcastic, personal or responding to deleted comments.