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Social media behind filmed fighting in communities

Social media is helping feed violence in remote Aboriginal communities to the point where some elders are tempted to pull the plug on internet services, according to a new study.

It found fights organised online were being filmed and the footage uploaded to Facebook or YouTube.

The issues were raised with researchers from Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology.

Their study, commissioned by Telstra, is looking at cyber safety issues facing some of Australia’s most remote communities.

“People sometimes overstep cultural protocols on social media platforms such as Facebook and AirG, which can exacerbate inter-family tensions, resulting in violence and in some instances, ostracism of individuals,” Associate Professor Ellie Rennie said.

“Elders are therefore tempted to reject internet services altogether.”

Online swearing in Aboriginal languages and the harmful effect of online gossip were some of the issues raised with researchers.

Participants in one men’s group told researchers fights featuring Indigenous people were available to view on YouTube.

Social media was also being used to organise fights which were filmed and then uploaded to Facebook, the study said.

“The men said that these fights, which were organised online and offline, were filmed by fellow Aboriginal people,” the study said.

“It wasn’t clear from participants what the fights were about, and participants did not say anything about wanting to have content removed from YouTube.

“They said it was ‘just fighting’ and did not appear overly concerned about the videos or say anything more about this topic.”

Groups from three Northern Territory communities at Tennant Creek, Elliott and Canteen Creek helped with the study — Cyber Safety in Remote Aboriginal Communities and Towns — from September 2015 to June this year.

The report said older generations in some communities were struggling to exert authority over social media communication channels.

Other communities were refusing communications infrastructure.

It said the high level of mobile device sharing in communities added to the cyber safety issues for the communities.

“Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory area are quickly adopting new digital technologies, but middle-aged and older community members are concerned about the consequences,” Professor Rennie said.

“While they are increasingly aware of the benefits of connectivity, including for emergencies, services and shopping, people are choosing not to use particular online services such as banking, because of the sharing of devices and passwords.

“In other instances, Elders are hesitant to have mobile services in their communities at all. If not addressed, cyber safety concerns may be holding some Aboriginal communities back from realising the full potential of the online world.”

A final report will be released in the middle of next year.

Wendy Caccetta

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