Māori and cybersecurity – Examining an unsafe online climate and the need for action

Māori and cybersecurity – Examining an unsafe 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 inconveniences that often endanger some communities.

Government-funded, non-profit research has shown over the years that there is significant online risk for many of our diverse Aotearoa communities, and Maori often stand 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 unsafe online behavior. Threatening someone with online image-based sexual abuse was more common among Maori compared to other ethnic groups, and research has also shown that women, and more disabled Maori women, are at greater risk of online security problems. than any other ethnic group.

Online cybersecurity can involve many things, but when it comes to the history of Maori online security, there are many challenges that Pākehā does not face.

Maori are not only subject to more prejudice and online discrimination, but are also subject to other threats, such as cyber scams and violations. RNZ previously reported in December 2020 that there was a significant increase in pyramid schemes targeting the Maori and Pasifa communities, and many were targeted with emails and website links promising a quick return on online investment.

In 2019, there were also reports of direct online ethnic scams using Maori culture. This involved someone on Facebook, Instagram or through messages and other social media claiming to be “Whānau” or a “Cuzzie” and then proceeded to ask for money or a loan.

Maori harassment and abuse are also common online. Action Station research shows that one in three Maori people (33%) suffered online racial abuse and harassment in 2018, highlighting an unsafe environment that could lead to more security problems.

High-visibility 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 stay afloat. anonymity. Unfortunately, even with an increase in media exposure and scrutiny of these large companies around their standards, this does not have a significant impact on the prevention of racism towards Maori.

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

Dr. Karaitiana Taiuru PhD, JP, has spent years looking at online security 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 the lack of representation in the area of ​​security and a misunderstanding of technology,” he says.

In the past, Dr. Taiuru has examined the role the government and Netsafe have played in keeping Maori safe online and says community members often do not feel safe even to report security or safety issues.

“Netsafe operates in a Eurocentric state where I often feel that Maori feel reprimanded or have experienced culturally unsafe behavior on the part of staff.”

He says the lack of support, research and general attention for Maori online security has been going on for a long time, and there needs to be significant changes in the way agencies work to help create better solutions.

“All the security agencies (police, DIA, NZSIS, GCSB, DPMC, etc.) have to work together and with the Maori. that the Maori are at high risk.

“There is a substantial amount of research showing that Maori are distrustful of the government, police and agencies, etc. Therefore, the current reporting mechanisms depend on being comfortable with filing a complaint with the authorities.”

There are also issues related to access to the material, as the lack of specific resources for Maori makes it more difficult for communities to get involved.

“There are no resources that take into account Maori cultural issues, such as tikanga breaches, cultural abuse, intellectual property theft, online racism, etc., Maori te reo abuse and other languages. The system is designed to to Pakehā men who speak English, “he says. Dr. Taiuru.

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

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

“I believe that companies like Microsoft could develop their recruitment and mentoring procedures on an equal footing as part of being a good corporate citizen and employing more Maori in the fields of cybersecurity.

“Netsafe also has a new CEO who comes from the rainbow community and is on a journey to discover his Maori whakapapa.”

Netsafe has also released a Maori version of its 2020 Staying Safe Online report, and it is hoped that more specific resources will follow and that new research will represent Maori in a fair and accurate manner.

Another way to change would be to have the Maori contribution to key legislation, says Dr. Taiuru.

“He [Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015] It also needs the right input from the community for a modified version that really protects the victims and not the perpetrators. “

While there is still much work to be done to keep Maori safe online, there is a clear understanding that a path to better results will come from embracing Te Tiriti and strengthening Maori inclusion in cybersecurity decision-making. . Information on 2021 Digital Inclusion Users: Maori from Digital.govt stressed that Maori inclusion could be improved through better communication and collaboration between Iwi and the government, and recognizing the power imbalance and the need for Maori-led initiatives are crucial.

“Maori counselors and teachers may have superior skills in dealing with problems at school and perhaps marae-led initiatives could receive government support,” Dr. Taiuru suggests.

Microsoft recently partnered with social enterprise TupuToa to jointly develop a cybersecurity employment program specifically for Maori and Pasifians. Funding was provided to promote diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity sector, and the contribution of Maori and Pasifa is apparently a small but important step in the right direction to help Aotearoa become a place. safer for everyone.



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