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Maori and cybersecurity – Examining a dangerous online climate and the need for action

Everyone has the right to stay safe online. Aotearoa invests millions of dollars each year in cybersecurity initiatives, but unfortunately there are still significant challenges and pitfalls that often put certain communities at risk.

Government-funded and non-profit research has proven over the years that there is a significant online risk to many of our diverse communities in Aotearoa, with Maori people often being singled out as a particularly vulnerable group.

Netsafe research in 2019 found that Maori were less confident in their digital skills compared to other ethnic groups and are constantly exposed to dangerous behavior online. Threatening someone with online image-based sexual abuse was more common among Maori than other ethnic groups, and research has also shown that women, and more so Maori women with disabilities, are more at risk. to online safety issues than any other ethnicity.

Online cybersecurity can involve many things, but when looking at the history of Maori online security, many challenges arise that Pākehā does not face.

Maori are not only subject to increased prejudice and discrimination online, but they are also subject to other threats such as scams and cyber breaches. RNZ previously reported in December 2020 that there was a significant increase in pyramid schemes targeting Maori and Pasifika communities, many of which were targeted with emails and links to websites promising a quick return on online investments .

There were also reports in 2019 of direct online ethnic scams that used Maori culture. This involved someone on Facebook, Instagram or through posts and other social media claiming they were “Whānau” or a “Cuzzie” and then asking for money or a loan.

Bullying and abuse of Maori is also widespread online. Research by Action Station shows that one in three Maori (33%) experienced racial abuse and harassment online in 2018, highlighting an unsafe environment that could lead to further safety issues.

High profile incidents of hate speech and white supremacy are also on the rise in Aotearoa, and online forums such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit pose serious security threats to Maori, with perpetrators often able to remain anonymous. Unfortunately, even with increased media exposure and scrutiny of these big companies around their standards, this is not having a significant impact on preventing anti-Maori racism.

While these facts are just snapshots of a larger problem, there are also those who believe that Maori are often overrepresented in negative statistics and research, and that not enough is being done to keep them safe. on line.

Dr. Karaitiana Taiuru PhD, JP has spent years looking at online safety through a Tikanga Māori lens. He says there are deep-rooted issues and problems that create a generally unsafe environment for Maori online.

“The real problem is a lack of representation in the area of ​​security and a misunderstanding of the technology,” he says.

In the past, Dr Taiuru has looked at the role the government and Netsafe have played in keeping Maori safe online and says community members often don’t even feel safe reporting safety or security concerns. safety.

“Netsafe operates in a Eurocentric state where I often hear Maori feeling victimized or experiencing culturally unsafe behavior from staff.”

He says the lack of support, research and general care for Maori online safety has been happening for a long time now, and that there needs to be significant changes in the way agencies work to help create better solutions.

“All security agencies (Police, DIA, NZSIS, GCSB, DPMC etc) need to work together and with Maori. They seemed to have done so after the Christchurch terror attack but ignored and still ignore that Maori are at high risk.

“A lot of research shows that Maori distrust government, police and agencies etc. So current reporting mechanisms rely on being comfortable complaining to authorities.”

There are also issues of access to materials, with the lack of resources specifically for Maori making it more difficult to involve communities.

“There are no resources that consider Maori cultural issues such as tikanga violations, cultural abuse, intellectual property theft, online racism, etc. Dr Taiuru.

He says online resources often “exclude a whole sector of children and whānau Kōhanga/Kura Kaupapa Māori who are immersed in te reo Māori”.

Looking to the future, Dr. Taiuru says greater Maori representation in the cybersecurity industry and related agencies could help create better outcomes for Maori.

“I think companies like Microsoft could strengthen their equality hiring and mentoring processes as part of good corporate citizenship and employ more Maori in cybersecurity fields.

“Netsafe also now has a new CEO who hails from the rainbow community and is discovering their Māori whakapapa.”

Netsafe has also published a te reo Māori version of its 2020 “Staying Safe Online” report, and it is hoped that more focused resources will follow and that new research will represent Māori fairly and accurately.

Another avenue for change would be to have Maori input for key legislation, says Dr Taiuru.

“The [Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015] also needs appropriate community input for a modified version that actually protects the victims and not the perpetrators.”

While it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done to keep Maori safe online, it is clear that a path to better results will come from adopting Te Tiriti and strengthening the inclusion of Maori in cybersecurity decision-making. Digital Inclusion User Insights 2021 – Māori by Digital.govt highlighted that Māori inclusion could be improved through better communication and collaboration between Iwi and government, and recognition of the power imbalance and need for Maori-led initiatives is crucial.

“Maori counselors and teachers could be skilled in dealing with issues that arise in school and perhaps marae-led initiatives could be supported by the government,” suggests Dr Taiuru.

Microsoft recently partnered with social enterprise TupuToa to co-develop a cybersecurity employment program specifically for Maori and Pasifika. Funding has been provided to promote diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity sector, and having Maori and Pasifika input is apparently a small but important step in the right direction to help Aotearoa become a safer place to everybody.

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