What’s important to know if you experience discrimination or vilification online because of your race

October 2021

Have you ever been treated badly online because of your race? In the past 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more people working, learning and obtaining goods and services online. On the internet, race discrimination and racial vilification can take the form of a website itself — its written content, its images, blogs, videos and on-line comments. 

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (the Act) protects individuals from discrimination and vilification in certain public places, including online. According to the Act, race includes your colour, nationality, descent and ethnic, ethno-religious or national origin. 

Race discrimination is when you are treated unfairly because of your race or because you’re a relative, friend or colleague of someone of a particular race. Racial vilification is a public act which could incite hatred, serious contempt, or severe ridicule towards people of a particular race. Online publication can be a public act depending on who has access.

ADNSW Enquiries has taken calls from people who believe they have experienced online race discrimination or racial vilification. For example, Marla* contacted us about racist bullying that was taking place on her public school’s online education platform. She said offensive, discriminatory language was being used toward a student of colour and asked whether we could provide some advice or assistance with the situation.

ADNSW Enquiries advised Marla that some online behaviour can be investigated as part of a race discrimination or a racial vilification complaint. Public schools are subject to the requirements of the Act and vilification complaints can include information published on social media or online forums. 

We recommended that Marla report the behaviour to the school to investigate. If the students had agreed with the school to a code of conduct to participate in online learning, this could be considered a breach of the code of conduct.

We also told Marla about other options, such as reporting the behaviour to the eSafety Commission and seeking legal advice from youth advocacy services. Marla later advised that the school was investigating the behaviour. 

If you believe you have experienced discrimination or vilification in an online setting because of your race, you may be able to make a complaint. It’s good idea to keep a record of the offensive material. To make a complaint, visit the complaints page on our website.

Federal laws may also apply — for more details, contact the Australian Human Rights Commission

* Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual. 

Last updated:

13 Oct 2021

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here

We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the ongoing connection Aboriginal people have to this land and recognise Aboriginal people as the original custodians of this land.

Top Return to top of page Top