Proudly Safe SA


Home » Online hate vs Adult Cyber Abuse

Online hate vs Adult Cyber Abuse

It can be helpful to understand the distinction between online hate and adult cyber abuse, as well as the assistance that eSafety can provide.

Even if online hate does not meet the legal criteria for adult cyber abuse that allows eSafety to investigate, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself and cope with the situation.

What is adult cyber abuse?

Adult cyber abuse involves using the internet to distribute content that is harmful to the physical or mental health of an adult (18 years or older). This can include posts, comments, emails, messages, memes, images, and videos. The person being targeted may be singled out due to their sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or other characteristics.

Examples of adult cyber abuse include:

  • Threats of violence that cause someone to fear for their physical safety
  • Encouraging violence against someone, either through direct threats or by encouraging others to do so
  • Doxing, or revealing a person’s address along with a false accusation of wrongdoing, with the intention of inciting harm or punishment
  • Deliberately targeting a person’s known vulnerabilities, such as repeatedly mocking someone with a history of anorexia for their weight.

To have adult cyber abuse removed, it should be reported to the app or online service that was used to send, post, or share it. This is usually the most efficient way to have the content removed. If the app or service does not take action within 48 hours, the harmful content can be reported to eSafety if it also meets the legal definition of adult cyber abuse. This means that the content must be menacing, harassing, or offensive and intended to cause serious harm to someone.

What is online hate?

Online hate can be described as any form of online communication that attacks, discriminates against, insults, or uses hateful language against a person or group due to their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. There is no globally accepted legal definition of online hate.

There is often overlap between adult cyber abuse and online hate, as some forms of online hate may be so severe and threatening that they meet the definition of adult cyber abuse under the Online Safety Act.

One major difference between adult cyber abuse and online hate is that adult cyber abuse must target a specific individual, rather than a broad group of people. For example, eSafety cannot take action on behalf of an organisation that is experiencing racist or misogynistic abuse online, as this abuse is directed at a group rather than a specific person. It also cannot act if online hate makes derogatory statements about, for instance, all LGBTIQA+ people or all trans people. In these cases, the Australian Human Rights Commission may be able to offer assistance.

Examples of online hate may include receiving racist, homophobic, or transphobic comments in response to a post about LGBTIQA+ people.