‘Haters and trolls’ under the spotlight 

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley says the issue of how to deal with hate speech on the Internet needs to be debated

The vexed issue of what to do about haters and trolls on the Internet is the theme of an upcoming public debate – and one that participating panellist Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley says we need to tackle.

The sociologist is speaking in the first of InternetNZ’s popular Speaker Series for 2018, titled Hate and the Internet, which will open the floor for a conversation on Internet trolls and hateful comments about diverse topics, from race and religion to sexual orientation, disability, gender and the right to freedom of expression. 

Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Spoonley believes we can no longer ignore the rise in hate speech online. He is one of several panellists from academic, media and political backgrounds who have all personally experienced hate online.

“It’s a serious issue for any New Zealander that uses the Internet,” he says. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right but so is practicing your religion or your sexuality without experiencing abuse. By facilitating this event InternetNZ is providing the platform to enable online hate speech to be discussed because it is worth debating.” 

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy says while we all have a right to freedom of expression, that freedom comes responsibilities. “New Zealanders can agree to disagree without name-calling or denigrating each other. It’s about treating people with respect and mana,” she says.

“There is a complex balance between freedom of expression and the defence of human dignity.” 

Dame Susan is representing the Human Rights Commission, one of the Speaker Series partners.

InternetNZ’s chief executive Jordan Carter says there has been a high level of interest for the May 22 event in Wellington. “There are many positives from the opportunity the Internet gives us for global, instant communication at low costs. But there are challenges too and talking about them is the best way to work out how we can tackle problematic behaviours.”

The panellists are:

Megan Whelan, Radio NZ’s Community Engagement Editor 

MP Golriz Ghahraman, the first refugee to be elected to New Zealand Parliament

Dave Moskovitz, a member of the Abrahamic and InternetNZ Councils 

Stacey Morrison, a television and radio presenter and part of Massey University’s Te Pūtahi-a-Toi Department 

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Massey University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

This Speaker Series event is supported by Netsafe, Human Rights Commission, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Massey University, NZ National Commission for UNESCO and National Library of New Zealand.

Hate and the Internet: 22 May, 12-1.30pm, National Library, Molesworth Street, Wellington.

To register click here.

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