Many Australians don’t think our nation has a problem with racism and white supremacy, but the world’s largest online search engine certainly does. Chris Graham reports.
If you search the phrase ‘Multiculturalism is’ on Google from an Australian location, the top three suggestions from the world’s largest search engine are ‘bad’, ‘a disaster’ and ‘cancer’.
The shocking revelations are contained in the research of a Sydney-based academic, Kawsar Ali, who has been following white supremacy groups online as part of her Masters degree with Macquarie University.
Google search results and suggestions are based on a frequently changing algorithm which the company keeps a closely guarded secret. However, it’s known to be heavily reliant on what a large mass of people in a particular region are searching for, and reacting to.
Ms Ali’s research investigates the links between race, power and the Internet, studying the term she has coined ‘digital settler colonialism’ online and offline. Her interest in the area has been driven by the Christchurch Massacre, when Australian Brenton Tarrant murdered 51 Muslims and injured 49 more in two gun rampages at mosques in the city.
Ms Ali has written a lengthy feature on New Matilda to acknowledge the one-year anniversary today.
Tarrant livestreamed the slaughter on social media, and also posted a ‘manifesto’ online prior to the shooting. It’s been banned in New Zealand, but Ms Ali notes that many of broad the themes in Tarrant’s writing are now suggested searches from one of the world’s largest online companies.
“One day I sat in the postgraduate research space at my university. I wanted to see what happened when I typed in terms that used race related terms, like ‘multiculturalism’, ‘xenophobia’ and ‘minorities’,” Ms Ali writes.
“I wondered, would this search engine pose as hostile architecture after the Christchurch shooting? What I found left me at a loss for words.”
“Suggested results like “multiculturalism is cancer” and “multiculturalism is a disaster” mimicked lines you would find at a white supremacist rally, in alt-right literature or memed into fame on 4chan or 8chan,” Ms Ali wrote.
“They reminded me of a passage in Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto: ‘Your ancestors did not sweat, bleed and die in the name of a multicultural, egalitarian nation. They built homes for their children to live in, they built communities for their people to thrive in, they built nations for their people to survive in.’”
New Matilda replicated the search and got the same results. But it seems Google doesn’t think our friends over the ditch are as receptive to overtly hateful messages. A reader in New Zealand performed two searches for this story, and received the following:
Ms Ali also conducted searches on the phrases ‘xenophobia is’ and ‘minorities are’ and got similar results.
“Recommendations such as ‘minorities are the worst offenders’, ‘minorities are overrepresented’ and ‘minorities are becoming the majority’ echo ideas we saw permeated throughout Tarrant’s manifesto.
“These ideas are based on white supremacist ideas that equip racial violence against specific ethnic minorities. It is ideas that minorities are “replacing” white majorities that justifies white on brown and white on black hate crimes. It encourages an insidious assimilation, where minorities begin retreating inward.”
Ms Ali pointed to the following passage in Tarrant’s manifesto: “Minorities are never treated well, do not become one. Do not allow your enemies to grow unchecked.”
“Brenton Tarrant is certainly right in one sense,” Ms Ali writes. “Minorities have it difficult.
Ms Ali is a recipient of a domestic scholarship through the Research Training Program and Macquarie University Research Excellence Scheme. She writes at onlineother.com and tweets at @orientalizm.
You can read her feature story on New Matilda here.
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