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The relationship between Misogyny, Anti-LGBT+ Hate Speech, and Harmful Inaccurate Information in Aotearoa

A HEIA Thematic Report / Report # 3

Primary author: Jenni Long


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Executive Summary

  • This report explores the relationship between Harmful Inaccurate Information (HII), misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech in Aotearoa’s online spaces to determine if and how they modify one another.    

  • We consider overlaps within a database of 2183 New Zealand-based hate speech posts and 3436 New Zealand-based HII posts collected from Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Telegram through 26 November 2023 - 11 March 2024.

  • Our methodology includes a two-step verification process, first utilising two Large Language Models (LLM) to detect HII and hate speech posts, which were then manually verified and categorised.

  • We demonstrate that 1) anti-LGBT+ hate speech is present in Aotearoa’s online spaces in consistently high numbers; 2) globalised HII concepts are present within Aotearoa; 3) misogynistic HII perpetuates a zero-sum perception of gender relations, and 4) social anxiety HII generates convergence between anti-LGBT+ hate speech and misogyny.




Whakataki – Introduction

Hate and Extremism Insights Aotearoa (HEIA) conducts data-led research to measure and analyse harmful online rhetoric. HEIA is based at the University of Auckland and led by Dr Chris Wilson. Utilising online data collected from late November 2023 through to March 2024, this report analyses the relationship between Harmful Inaccurate Information (HII), misogyny, and anti-LGBT+ hate speech in Aotearoa.

Harmful Inaccurate Information (HII) is false ideas, beliefs and claims spread in New Zealand which are capable of causing a range of harms to individuals, communities and institutions, and includes both misinformation and disinformation. Misogynistic hate speech describes the vilification, abuse, and/or dehumanisation of women, and anti-LGBT+ hate speech refers to the same actions against rainbow communities.


Both HII and hate speech can generate polarisation, mistrust, degrade social cohesion and lead to violent extremism. Gender-based HII employed in online spaces can lead to Online Gender-Based Violence (OGBV) (Bundtzen, 2023). Furthermore, rainbow communities remain the most likely of any social group in New Zealand to experience crime against them. Despite this, the specific narratives which connect HII with gender and sexuality are under researched.

Both HII and hate speech can generate polarisation, mistrust, degrade social cohesion and lead to violent extremism.

This thematic report employs large data techniques to generate a comprehensive snapshot of HII, misogyny, and anti-LGBT+ hate speech in Aotearoa over a 4-month collection period. We use this period to consider the volume and content of these forms of online rhetoric, and examine how and when they overlap.

This report will begin with a background section to contextualise our findings and show why this research is important for mitigating harm. After clarifying our methods, we then look deeply into the quantitative and qualitative features of our dataset, making sense of specific spikes, themes, and patterns in posting. Finally, we describe our key findings.

We have included a small number of anonymous posts which represent the HII and hate speech themes discussed. While these by no means represent the most offensive messages in our dataset, and we have redacted offensive terms, readers should exercise caution before reading.


Hate Speech 

HEIA defines hate speech as speech that goes beyond highlighting differences in practices and identities between groups, and vilifies, demeans, abuses or dehumanises people on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, religion, disability status or other identity. In doing so, hate speech is therefore different to political opinion and debate.


 Harmful Inaccurate Information

‘Harmful Inaccurate Information’ (HII) refers to all misleading information which causes harm or which is likely to have a harmful impact, regardless of whether the spreader of that information is a) aware of its misleading nature or b) intending to cause harm.


Not all hate speech is HII

While hate speech involves slurs and abuse, it can occur without including the spreading of inaccurate information as fact. In such cases, this speech is abuse or opinion (as heinous and ignorant as others may find it) and not HII.

Example: ‘Yes, [homophobic slur should] be smacked over starting with you’ (21/12/2023).


Not all HII is hate speech

A lot of HII contains false and misleading claims which are harmful in a range of ways but which do not demean a particular community. These statements are HII but not hate speech.

Example: ‘Mark of the beast is upon us covid-19 real meaning is certification of vaccinations by ID identification. (-19) means it's a patented Bioweapon not a Vaccine’ (27/02/2024).


In some cases HII and hate speech overlap In these cases, the speaker demeans a particular group and spreads inaccurate information. Example: “[x group] control the mainstream media, social-media, banking systems and are in key positions of political power in all White societies.  It is very obvious that they are not ‘victims’ - they are a hostile aggressive tribe with an innate biological drive to dominate and subjugate” (08/02/2024).


Background

Hate Speech and Online Misogyny

Definitions for hate speech are vast and wide-ranging, but it is generally understood to harm inclusivity by reducing empathy towards people's differences. This report considers hate speech employed against women and LGBT+ people, with the consequence of isolating and threatening the safety of target communities (Udupa et al., 2020).

This type of hate speech highlights the differences between genders and sexualities, and dehumanises people on the basis of these social identities. Gender-based hate speech can also unite those with traditionally different political opinions based on a common enemy – women, feminism and gender diversity. 

Misogyny is a system that upholds male power in society, through the subjugation of women, and hostility to any challenge to this position (Manne, 2017). Women who behave in ways which align with her expected roles will be considered ‘normal’, and are less likely to receive backlash than those who are outspoken and dominant.

Gender-based hate speech can also unite those with traditionally different political opinions based on a common enemy – women, feminism and gender diversity

This causes women to remain in harmful situations – such as domestic abuse scenarios - by making it dangerous for women to speak out against men. In New Zealand, this is reflected in statistics surrounding sexual violence, where an estimated 92% of cases of sexual violence go unreported (MFW, 2024).

Misogyny thereby compels women to act in ways which empower masculine men in communities, workplaces, households, and relationships (Manne, 2017). This form of social control can be employed within online spaces through techniques of Online Gender Based Violence (OGBV).

Misogynistic hate speech is often employed to vilify, abuse, and dehumanise women who do not comply with misogynistic social norms (Richardson‐Self, 2018).  Other techniques target specific women through actions such as online harassment, dissemination of violent sentiments, stalking and monitoring, impersonation, gendered or sexualised dis/misinformation, image-based sexual abuse (e.g. revenge porn), doxing, and threats of offline violence, both physical and sexual (Bundtzen, 2023)

OGBV contributes to the normalisation of hateful beliefs about women, which is a precursor to harmful acts against women. “Disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women, but all violence against women begins with disrespecting women” (Leitch & Pickering, 2022). 46% of women in Aotearoa already report having experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence within their lifetime (MOJ, 2023). The COVID-19 pandemic compounded these issues by simultaneously increasing the amount of time people spend online, and reducing the pathways for women to escape abusive situations (MFW, 2024). 

On a macro scale, OGBV represents a threat to democracy by contributing to “backsliding on women’s rights and the erosion of democratic principles and institutions” (Di Meco, 2023).

For these reasons understanding and monitoring online misogyny is crucial.

 

Anti-LGBT+ Hate

Homophobic hate speech acts to vilify, abuse, and/or dehumanise people who are not heterosexual (Chakravarthi, 2023). Transphobic hate speech refers to similar rhetoric against gender diverse people, such as transgender or non-binary (Hande et al., 2022). 

Transphobia and homophobia delivered as anti-LGBT+ hate speech is extremely prevalent within online spaces, and the internet continues to be a hostile place for rainbow communities (Chakravarthi, 2023). In anticipation of negative backlash, LGBT+ people report feeling afraid to engage in normal, everyday activities – even something as simple as posting a picture of themselves online (Colliver, 2023). This is particularly harmful when members of this community spend more time online, using social media to make connections with like-minded individuals who they cannot meet in their offline world (Escobar-Viera et al., 2018).

In a poll surveying the experiences of LGBT+ individuals conducted in the United Kingdom, eight out of ten had been exposed to online hate speech, and one in five had been targeted by hate speech more than 100 times (Chakravarthi, 2023). The study outlined transgender people as particularly vulnerable to experiencing online harassment, where 93% of recipients surveyed were victims (Chakravarthi, 2023). The frequency and severity of online hate speech can be inflamed by offline events. This was observed in the aftermath of anti-trans activist Posie Parker’s visit to Auckland, and as will be demonstrated within our dataset, this event continues to be referenced within anti-trans rhetoric in Aotearoa a year on.

Anti-LGBT+ hate speech surrounding a particular event can evolve into systematic campaigns of online harassment which have  significant psychological harms for its victims (Chakravarthi, 2023). This language can incite mistrust, fear, and cultivate an ‘us vs them’ logic, degrading social cohesion. Online hate can be a warning sign for future physical and sexual violence, including beating, mutilation, rape, molestation, and murder (Chakravarthi, 2023). In California last year, for example, a man with a history of online hate speech against LGBT+ communities murdered a woman for displaying a rainbow flag in her store. Transgender people in particular are targets of extreme violence, and in 2023, 321 trans and gender diverse people were murdered (TGEU, 2023).

Anti-LGBT+ hate speech surrounding a particular event can evolve into systematic campaigns of online harassment

Violence against rainbow communities is prevalent in Aotearoa, where 52% of LGBTQ+ people have been victims to acts of crime against them – the highest of any social group (MOJ, 2023).

Alongside physical violence, hate towards LGBT+ communities has generated attacks on infrastructure and safe spaces, such as when two men burnt down the Tauranga Rainbow Youth building in June 2022. 

 

Harmful Inaccurate Information (HII)

Misinformation is false content spread without any intention to mislead or cause harm. Disinformation is the dissemination of information with the knowledge that it is false and likely to cause harm (Gibbons & Carson, 2022; HEIA, 2023; Wang et al., 2022). 

Because it is often difficult to know the intent of those who spread false ideas, discriminating between misinformation and disinformation online is challenging. Hereby, in this report (as in our previous reports) we use the term ‘Harmful Inaccurate Information’ (HII) to refer to all misleading information which causes harm or which is likely to have a harmful impact, regardless of whether the spreader of that information is a) aware of its misleading nature or b) intending to cause harm. This broad definition is outcome focused, and is best suited to data collection for an analysis of the problem of HII in Aotearoa’s online spaces (HEIA, 2024). For an in-depth definition of HII, see ‘Harmful Inaccurate Information: Defining disinformation, misinformation’.

It is difficult to discuss these topics without considering freedom of expression, which is essential for fair, democratic societies. Free speech encourages critical thinking, encourages a diversity of viewpoints, and enables people to publicly express their ideas in order to gain feedback and foster connection with others (Herz & Molnar, 2012). Freedom of expression is an essential value for supporting civil society and liberal democracy, but so too is protecting vulnerable communities and individuals from identity-driven harm, and defending their capacity to fully participate in society. 

HEIA does not recommend the regulation of hate speech and HII. Suppression of speech through regulation and content removal can undermine rights of free expression, risks disproportionate targeting of certain (legal) political and other opinions, and causes backlash and grievance, acting to solidify divisions and inflame feelings of persecution, undermining trust. This may only prompt the spread of further hateful rhetoric (Udupa et al., 2020). Furthermore, this approach can encourage the movement of those with alternative opinions to less mainstream platforms where more insidious perspectives are rife (Johnson et al., 2019). 

However, HEIA asserts that it is wise to track and monitor narratives of hate and HII within Aotearoa’s online spaces (while maintaining poster anonymity), to establish baselines and highlight notable trends and patterns. This helps prepare us for future increases in damaging inaccurate information, providing agencies and others evidence to work with rather than assumption.

This report focuses on the relationship between HII, misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech.

 

Misogyny, Anti-LGBT+ Hate Speech, and HII

Studies show that HII combines with hate speech related to gender and sexuality in unique and specific ways. For example, misogynistic HII can take on a highly sexualised dimension, where images of female celebrities or women in politics are manipulated to put them in highly sexual scenarios (Esposito, 2023). In Italy, a photo of a lingerie model was shared claiming that the woman in the photo was Maria Elena Boschi, an Italian politician, and insinuated her successful career was only due to her alleged sexual availability (Esposito, 2023). A central theme in misogynistic HII paints women as incompetent and unfit to contribute in the political sphere (Bardall, 2022).

The uptake of misogynistic and anti-LGBT+ HII is underpinned by the globalised nature of the online world, and our dataset frequently observes the importation of distant-born ideas into Aotearoa's information environment. Events which occur in Aotearoa can also become fuel for HII overseas. For example, an anti-abortion group in the United Kingdom – Right for Life – responded to the New Zealand 2020 Abortion Legislation Act by falsely stating that abortion was made “available on-demand, for any reason, up to birth” (Thompson-Fuller, 2020).

A number of misogyny-driven conspiracy theories have originated within the ‘manosphere’ – a network of diffuse but interconnected websites, YouTube channels, forums, social media accounts, and influencers who purport to advocate for men’s rights by “liberat[ing] men from a life of feminist delusion” (Ging, 2017, p. 638). Despite an assertion that the ‘manosphere’ community is centred on men’s issues, members frequently disparage the advancement of women’s rights, resulting in denial and minimisation of the issues that women face (Sugiura, 2021). One product of this worldview was the vilification of the #MeToo movement, where misogynistic HII was employed to frame women as falsifying their stories for personal gain, argue that women secretly enjoy being raped, and suggest that men are the real victims (Dickel & Evolvi, 2023). As a result, genuine accounts of abuse are contested and victims shamed for coming forward (Boyle & Rathnayake, 2020).

Another branch of misogynistic HII falsely suggests that the ‘female species’ is hypergamous – a dehumanising concept taken from animal biology – which argues that women only ‘mate/date upwards’ and “will always seek relationships with men of higher status than themselves, or than the men they are currently with” (ISD, 2020). This concept feeds into a ‘sexual marketplace’ worldview, which suggests 80% of women are only attracted to the ‘top’ 20% of men, generating a perception of women as nefarious and shallow (Ging, 2023). This HII presents most men as victims of all women, facilitating resentment and hate speech, or even violence, against them (Ging, 2023). Elliot Rodger was motivated by this idea when he killed 7 people and injured 14 others in Isla Vista in 2014, stating in his manifesto: “The ultimate evil behind sexuality is the human female […]. They control which men get it and which men don’t”. Rodger’s attack has since inspired several others worldwide (Witt, 2020).

When considering anti-LGBT+ HII, much of it centres around a perceived ‘rainbow conspiracy’, which rests on the belief that a large-scale LGBT+ lobby is purposely corrupting traditional family values with the aim of defiling the human race (Balirano & Hughes, 2023). The term ‘gender ideology’ is used in online spaces to frame positive affirmation of trans identities as connecting to a wider scheme of recruitment, presenting school curriculum’s which include LGBT+ histories as indoctrination. Similarly, The crossover of HII with anti-trans hate generated a conspiratorial trend called ‘transvestigation’, which falsely claims that certain celebrities are transgender through an ‘investigation’ that applies fake and pseudo-scientific ‘evidence’.

The widespread dissemination of anti-LGBT+ HII has culminated in shared terms and concepts used to harass, attack, and vilify rainbow communities, which the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) outlines in their guide to anti-LGBTQ online hate and disinformation. For example, the trope that rainbow communities are ‘groomers’ and sexual predators which threaten children is employed to foment fear and hatred towards its members. Similarly, the term ‘transgenderism’ is used to imply that being trans is about advancing an ideology rather than expressing an identity, working to dehumanise and project nefarious motivations on to transgender people and those who support them.

Anti-LGBT+ HII cherry-picks and amplifies specific issues to make the scale (and harm) of the ‘gender ideology’ appear more severe. For example, anti-trans discourse emphasises the danger to women and children caused by gender-neutral bathrooms, despite little to no evidence that the presence of transgender women in female public bathrooms increases safety risks towards cisgender women (Colliver et al., 2019; Hasenbush et al., 2019). In reality, gender diverse people are more often victims of sexual violence than cisgender people. In a 2019 Aotearoa-based study, 32% of gender diverse people reported having been raped compared to 11% of cisgender women and 3% of cisgender men (Veale et al., 2019)

Another HII theme is the mischaracterisation of gender reassignment surgery and/or gender affirming care, portraying them as a form of self-harm by using words such as ‘mutilation’, ‘castration’ and ‘sterilisation’ (SPLC, 2024). This feeds into a wider ecosystem of think tanks, legislators, public intellectuals, political candidates, and gender-critical bloggers who generate medical HII by misrepresenting scientific evidence, omitting key context, and selectively applying critical standards. These concepts which portray gender-affirming care as self-harm are used by perpetrators of hate speech against transgender people to legitimise their encouragement of self-harm and suicide (Colliver, 2023).

Both misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate play unique roles for the uptake and spread of extremist worldviews. For example, misogyny is considered a ‘gateway, driver, and early warning sign’ for mass violence, as well as a unifying feature of seemingly disparate extreme ideologies, including white nationalism and Salafi jihadism (Bundtzen, 2023; Diaz & Valji, 2019). Misogyny contributes to the convergence of different forms of extremism by bringing together different schools of thought united over a common enemy. Similarly, transphobia, is used as a ‘wedge issue’ by extremist groups to draw people into their ideology. For example, anti-transgender activists in Melbourne last year performed Nazi salutes next to a banner stating ‘Destroy Paedo Freaks’, reminiscent of the anti-LGBT+ HII which frames rainbow communities as groomers.

HII can inflame hate, and hate can facilitate the spread of HII. In HEIA’s report on ‘The Relationship Between Hate Speech and Harmful Inaccurate Information in Aotearoa’, we demonstrate how HII and hate speech in Aotearoa are interlinked, following similar patterns and are caused by similar phenomenon. This report will look deeply into how these processes are occurring in relation to misogyny, anti-LGBT+ hate speech, and HII, and aims to 1) identify where HII intersects with misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech, 2) describe how this manifests in Aotearoa, and 3) explain the consequences this may have for local communities.


Methodological notes

This report uses two proprietary Large Language Models (LLM) to detect HII and hate speech within a collection of 1,546,742 posts from online social media platforms including Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Telegram.

The hate speech LLM identified posts based on the input: ‘Does this poster show hatred towards, or vilify, demean, abuse or dehumanise an individual or community because of their cultural or ethnic identity or disability status or physical appearance?’. The HII LLM identified posts based on the input: ‘This post must include inaccurate or false information that will deceive people and is likely to cause harm. This includes conspiracy theories, which are false, incorrect and untrue claims of a powerful group of people enacting a plan to increase their own power which has damaging consequences for the majority of people or society’.

The posts identified as HII and/or hate speech by the LLMs were subsequently manually verified by a team of four researchers who removed those which did not meet our high threshold of inaccuracy and harm. The contents of the resulting posts were analysed and categorised based on specific key themes and subthemes – including misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech – and previous literature on hate and HII. Regular meetings and comparison ensured coding was consistent between team members.

All data are anonymised on collection and no personal information is intentionally collected or used in HEIA’s research. Any personal information inadvertently collected is deleted and we do not provide any such information or other data to third parties nor use it in our analysis.

We draw attention to the fact that the numbers of hate speech and HII within our dataset are low. We do not suggest that this is representative of the level of hate faced by target communities in Aotearoa. We collect from public areas on particular platforms only and some of the most extreme hateful sentiments are posted in private (rather than public) online spaces. In addition, our methodology is rigorous, with strict benchmarks for ‘harm’ and ‘hate’ alongside a two-step verification process for weeding out posts which don’t meet these benchmarks (ensuring those simply expressing a political or other opinion are excluded for example), resulting in a database that consists of the most important HII and hate speech. These low numbers are manageable, allowing us to conduct a more targeted analysis of the state of HII and hate speech in Aotearoa. Our aim is to identify observable patterns and trends related to the HII/hate speech relationship, rather than provide a complete picture of the levels of hate speech and HII.

Over the collection period, 19,058 posts were identified (by LLMs) as containing hate speech, and 26,297 posts identified as containing HII. Once the resulting posts were manually verified, our database consisted of 2183 New Zealand-based hate speech and 3436 New Zealand-based HII posts.

A number of posts were marked as both HII and misogynistic or anti-LGBT+ hate speech. Of the total number marked as misogynistic hate speech (186 posts), 10 of these posts were also marked as HII. Of the total number of marked as anti-LGBT+ hate speech (513 posts), 85 of these posts were also marked as HII. Considering the low level of overlap between misogynistic hate speech marked as HII, we also consider the presence of more general misogynistic sentiments.

Within this report we include examples of misogynistic, anti-LGBT+, and HII posts from our dataset. We have carefully considered the merits and problems with reproducing posts, but believe their inclusion within our discussion is important for accurately reporting on the level of vitriol directed towards target communities.Some posts have been counted in both datasets.


HII and Hate Speech quantitative results

After manually verifying the 26,297 HII posts and 19,058 hate speech posts identified by the LLMs for the reporting period of 26 November 2023 - 11 March 2024, our total dataset comprises 3436 New Zealand-based HII posts and 2183 New Zealand-based hate speech posts.

Figure 1. Total number of hate speech posts vs total number of HII posts over time


There is a relationship between HII and hate speech, whereby offline events - and reporting on these events in the media - results in spikes in both (Fig. 1). For example, we believe that a claim made in mid-February by University of Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust that breastmilk from transgender women is comparable to cisgender women caused a spike in Anti-LGBT+ hate speech and social anxiety HII.  Of the 3436 posts marked as HII, 290 of them were also marked as hate speech. Our HII data therefore includes 8.4% of posts which were also hate speech (Fig. 2), and HII is present within 13.2% of our hate speech data (Fig. 3). 

There is a relationship between HII and hate speech, whereby offline events - and reporting on these events in the media - results in spikes in both

This report considers the specific relationship of HII with misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech. For an in-depth analysis of the overlaps between other categories of hate speech in relation to HII, see HEIA’s report on ‘The Relationship Between Hate Speech and Harmful Inaccurate Information in Aotearoa’.

Figure 2. Number of HII posts which also contain hate speech over time


Figure 3. Number of hate speech posts which also contain HII over time




Misogyny

Figure 4. Proportion of misogynistic hate speech posts over time


Of the total 2183 posts that we identified as containing hate speech, 186 were categorised as misogynistic, representing 8.5% of the total number of hate speech posts within our dataset. This number is relatively low compared to other categories, likely because misogyny generates hostility towards specific types of women – rather than all women - who act in ways which do not align with traditional expectations of femininity (Manne, 2017).  We also identified 432 generalised misogynistic posts.

Misogynistic hate speech followed a similar trend to that of hate speech overall, which is a decline through mid to late December 2023, and increase from early January 2024 onwards. Offline events result in spikes in online hate speech, as observed on January 16th, which saw a spike in reaction to the resignation of a female MP following shoplifting charges (Fig. 4). Misogynistic hate speech posts on this day framed the event by disparaging women as a whole and claiming that many women are “unprofessional” or not “moral”.

10 of the total 186 misogynistic hate speech posts within our dataset also contained HII sentiments (Fig. 5). Within these posts, a common theme is the assertion that Aotearoa society favours women over men: “Females and **** walk around with the clip boards and earn the bucks even if they **** up. In NZ, the receptionist earns(s) more than the tradesmen” (19/02/2024). This sentiment echoes the misogynistic HII prevalent in the manosphere that asserts that men are victimised by the success of women, revealing how concepts and narratives from the manosphere have been imported into Aotearoa.

The assertion that society is stacked against men (and traditional masculinity) takes on locally-specific features within our dataset , framing certain politicians or parties as implementing it:“Now nothing holds the [New Zealand political party] from going full berko, full [derogatory sexist slur], full redistributionismeses, full mask off, full misanthrope, full gloves off, full ******, full activated activist, full anti-human death cult” (30/01/2024).

The assertion that society is stacked against men (and traditional masculinity) takes on locally-specific features within our dataset

Figure 5. Misogynistic hate speech which also contains HII over time


Some posts frame particular subgroups of women, such as media personalities, as especially nefarious. In other cases, women are accused of using sex and other means to control men.

Whilst misogynistic hate speech was observed in relatively low numbers in comparison to other forms of hate speech, 432 posts within our total dataset contained more general misogynistic sentiments, which disparaged specific individuals through the lens of gender, rather than women as a social group: “‘[Male politician’s wife] pleads for more US cash’. So you can buy more Gucci shoes, handbags and homes in other countries? Fuck off, *****” (09/12/2023).

Posts within the intersection of misogyny and social anxiety HII demonstrated fear surrounding population declines, where women are framed as playing an essential role: “***Every*** nation in the western world is already well ***below*** the birth replacement rate (which requires ***every*** woman to have an average of 2.1 live births just to maintain a steady population, NZ is around 1.6 and steadily falling)” (04/02/2024). This narrative is central within white nationalist ideology, and has influenced perpetrators of significant terrorist attacks (Sparrow, 2019). This worldview is well-represented by a quote from a neo-Nazi frontman arguing that “the life of a race is in the wombs of its women”, and how white men should “preserve the beauty of [our] women and a future for White children” (Gardell, 2021, p. 62).

Posts within the intersection of misogyny and social anxiety HII demonstrated fear surrounding population declines

11 of the 21 posts also HII contained globalist conspiracies and theories of elite control. These posts often identified specific female politicians or public figures as being involved in a ‘globalist’ plan for control: “[Female politician] is jealous because she is the queen of malinformation. This globalist **** has committed democide on our people” (04/12/2023).

Female politicians are frequently the victims of extreme OGBV, acting to discredit, shame, and punish them. This is reflected within our dataset, where posts range from accusations which call the abilities of female politicians into question, to calling for violence against them. We have chosen to not include representative posts of this kind. Sentiments and threats like these discourage women from engaging in the political and public sphere – particularly in visible roles – resulting in structural gender inequality backsliding (Bundtzen, 2023).

In some cases, misogyny was not featured within the HII conspiracy itself. Instead, for example, weakness on the part of White women was blamed for the success of the Maori ‘elites’.

Alongside hateful sentiments towards women, a number of posts target ‘weak’, feminised men, sometimes for not engaging in misogynistic and other forms of violence. This approach is used to discredit and shame male politicians and public figures.

Figure 6. Breakdown of misogynistic hate speech which includes other forms of hate speech


141 posts which displayed elements of misogyny also contained other types of hate speech (Fig. 6). The greatest overlap can be observed between misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate speech, which typically disparage (or deny the existence of) queer and transgender women. We have chosen to not include representative posts of this kind.


Anti-LGBT+ Hate Speech

Figure 7. Proportion of anti-LGBT+ hate speech posts over time


Anti-LGBT+ hate speech refers to rhetoric which targets people of diverse genders or sexualities as a social group, and represents 23.5% of the total number of hate speech posts within our dataset - the second highest proportion (Fig. 7). Of the total 2183 posts that we identified as containing hate speech, 513 contained anti-LGBT+ hate speech. Many posters continue to reference the Posie Parker protest in Auckland in early 2023.

85 of the anti-LGBT+ hate speech posts in our dataset also contained HII sentiments. Many of them displayed anti-LGBT+ HII themes which appear globally, including the use of words like ‘grooming’ and ‘transgenderism’, the mischaracterisation of gender-affirming care, discussions of gender-neutral bathrooms, and the use of ‘transvestigation’ (inspections to identify an individual’s gender). We have chosen to not include representative posts of this kind.  


Figure 8. Anti-LGBT+ hate speech which also contains HII over time


81 of these were posted within a period of one month through 11 February to 11 March 2024 (see fig. 8). The subject matter being discussed within this period was vast, ranging from the role of transgender people within competitive sports overseas to sex education within Aotearoa. One frequently discussed topic, however, was a claim made in mid-February by University of Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust that breastmilk from transgender women is comparable to cisgender women (Searles, 2024). This event may have prompted the increase in anti-LGBT+ HII within our data including claims of child abuse and other issues.

68 of the posts contained social anxiety HII, and reflecting the overarching theme of anti-LGBT+ HII found worldwide, conspiracies surround perceptions of a ‘gender ideology’ being implemented within schools, governments, and international institutions, and are reminiscent of cultural warfare ideas imported from the United States: “The LGBTQIA never ending+ indoctrination and **** agenda came from the Universities with cultural Marxism and postmodernism ideology that is infecting and destroying societies and countries from within” (14/02/2024).

Another common trend is the denial that transgender people exist, and they are instead a product of either poor mental health or fetish. At its most insidious, this intersection of HII and hate suggests that transgender people – or LGBT+ communities in general – are involved in the abuse of children. Some posts argue that LGBT+ people are unfit parents because they harm children.

At its most insidious, this intersection of HII and hate suggests that transgender people – or LGBT+ communities in general – are involved in the abuse of children

35 posts marked as anti-LGBT+ hate speech also contained globalist conspiracies, and suggest that the so-called ‘globalist elite’ are transgender and/or wish to implement a gender ideology as a means of world domination. In line with this conspiracy theory, there is overlap with antisemitism (fig. 9), where 9 posts also frame Jewish people as being involved in this elite group. This relationship centres on a conspiracy theory that Jewish people are manufacturing a ‘gender ideology’ for global control: “Trans is a Jewish invention meant to assault the youth of a nation. Reproductive Warfare... #WakeUp (08/02/2024). 

Figure 9. Breakdown of anti-LGBT+ hate speech which includes other forms of hate speech


HII as a bridge between Misogyny and Anti-LGBT+ Hate

The convergence of anti-LGBT+ hate and misogyny appear in relation to social anxiety concerns, involving confusion surrounding changing gender identities and fears about the degradation of traditional femininity and masculinity.

The convergence of anti-LGBT+ hate and misogyny appear in relation to social anxiety concerns

Misogyny and anti-LGBT+ hate converges over the belief that feminism and wokeism are harmful: “[…] It makes its people weak. […] they're removing basic biology from our schools as it interferes with the trans narrative, and now they're coming for the children to indoctrinate them, this will end up turning children against their parents” (26/02/2024).

This flags the potential for HII surrounding cultural warfare to inflame both forms of hate.


Key findings and implications for Aotearoa

Our findings are derived from the analysis of 2183 New Zealand-based hate speech and 3436 New Zealand-based HII posts posted on Facebook, Telegram, Instagram and Facebook over a period of 4 months. These posts were verified as the most harmful examples of HII and hate speech derived from a large collection of 1,546,742 posts collected longitudinally. Of these posts, 186 included misogynistic hate speech and 513 included anti-LGBT+ hate speech.


We provide four key findings:


HIGH VOLUMES OF ONLINE HATE AND HII TARGETING LGBT+ COMMUNITIES

Within our dataset, anti-LGBT+ hate speech was the second most common form of hate disseminated in Aotearoa’s online spaces, closely trailing the frequency of antisemitism (see our report on ‘The Relationship Between Hate Speech and Harmful Inaccurate Information in Aotearoa’). Similarly, anti-LGBT+ hate speech contains that second highest proportion posts which also contain HII within our dataset.

Within anti-LGBT+ hate speech posts, transgender communities (transgender women in particular) were the most targeted group. The Posie Parkie protest which occurred in March 2023 continues to be referenced, showing how offline events can set the trajectory of hate in Aotearoa's online spaces long after it occurs. The targeting of transgender women in particular means that there are significant overlaps of anti-LGBT+ hate with misogynistic sentiments. Comments about what it means to be a ‘good’ or ‘real’ woman are common. The high levels of online hate against rainbow communities suggest a heightened risk of violence against them in Aotearoa.

Offline events can set the trajectory of hate in Aotearoa's online spaces long after it occurs

GLOBALISED HII IN AN AOTEAROA CONTEXT

Our dataset contains a number of anti-LGBT+ HII themes which have been reported globally with uptake of this form of HII in Aotearoa amplified by its normalisation worldwide. Some examples include ‘transvestigations’, gender-affirming care HII, and the ‘gender ideology’. A preexisting lack of knowledge surrounding gender diverse identities generates anxiety of the unknown, allowing anti-LGBT+ HII from overseas to take root in Aotearoa. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) explains: “part of the success of this mainstreaming lies in the ability of fringe actors to manipulate the general public’s lack of knowledge of queer culture and particularly their insensitivity to the plight of trans people. This has been coupled with the most potent fear — that of people harming children, which has been used to justify hatred and irrationality for centuries” (Gallagher & Squirrell, 2023).


ZERO-SUM PERCEPTION OF GENDER RELATIONS

Within our dataset we identified posting which frames the success of women as harmful for men. This concept is common within the online ecosystem of the ‘manosphere’, but has consequences for women offline by promoting OGBV. Furthermore, this idea generates hate and mistrust towards female public figures on the basis of their gender: “[List of four female politicians]. All of these women will continue to receive glowing articles from the legacy media. Privilege is real alright, but in this country, it's handed on a silver platter to whiny women who refuse to take responsibility for their actions” (10/01/2024). This may discourage women from taking (or remaining in) public facing roles, representing backsliding in structural gender inequality and democratic decay (Bundtzen, 2023).

Furthermore, this ‘gender-rivalry’ worldview perpetuates the false idea that society cannot be structured to improve the gender-specific issues that men experience while simultaneously improving the gender-specific issues that women face. This zero sum view of competition between genders degrades Aotearoa’s social cohesion and discourages the generation of solutions which advocate for all genders


SOCIAL ANXIETY AS A BINDING THEME

HII related to themes of social anxiety and cultural warfare commonly overlap with anti-LGBT+ hate speech and misogyny, generating convergence between these sentiments by providing a logic for hate against target communities. Within our dataset, this convergence frequently extended to other forms of hate speech, bound by a central belief that Aotearoa society favours some communities and disadvantages others (white, heterosexual, men in particular).

This can be understood as a response to social changes in Aotearoa (and globally) which aim to increase equity for historically disenfranchised communities. By this, social anxiety HII related to gender and sexuality expresses a form of relative deprivation, which is the perception that oneself, or one's social group, is disadvantaged in comparison to others. This in turn is considered a “powerful motivator for contemporary forms of violent extremism across cultures” (Kunst & Obaidi, 2020, p. 57)

Social anxiety HII related to gender and sexuality expresses a form of relative deprivation

HEIA calls for further evidence-based research and analysis into the connection between specific HII narratives, offline events and anti-LGBT+ and misogynistic hate speech to ensure rising dangerous sentiment is detected before it results in increasingly serious harm.


Concluding remarks

This report analyses the relationship between online hate speech and Harmful, Inaccurate, Information (HII) in Aotearoa, with a focus on gender and sexuality, utilising online data collected over a period of 4 months. Misogyny, anti-LGBT+ hate speech, and HII can undermine social cohesion, threaten democracy, and harm target communities. Beyond this, technological advancements which alter how information is produced and consumed has facilitated the globalisation of hateful and false narratives surrounding gender and sexuality, where events and campaigns occurring overseas act to fuel their dissemination within Aotearoa.

An exploration of online posts which contained both HII and anti-LGBT+ hate speech and/or misogyny revealed that, 1) anti-LGBT+ hate speech is present in Aotearoa’s online spaces in consistently high numbers; 2) globalised HII concepts are present within Aotearoa; 3) misogynistic HII perpetuates a zero-sum perception of gender relations, and 4) social anxiety HII generates convergence between anti-LGBT+ hate speech, misogyny, and other hateful sentiments.

Future research should track online HII, misogyny, and anti-LGBT+ hate speech in relation to the perpetration of offline violence against rainbow communities and women.


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For enquires regarding this report please contact Dr. Chris Wilson at chris@heiaglobal.com








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