Why this story matters:
Imagine being a young couple who just welcomed their baby girl to the world and then being confronted with hatred and disgust by a large number of people. This is what happened to the parents of the first baby of the year in Vienna.
Annually, on January 1, Austrian media outlets traditionally feature the first babies born in the new year. In Vienna, the first one happened to be a little girl named Asel. In a family photo shared in newspapers and on social media, Asel's mother is wearing a hijab. That was a sufficient reason for several hundred people to post hostile and disgraceful comments about the family.
The comment section under the Facebook post of the free newspaper "Heute" was especially grim. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, the newspaper had to post a reminder about how their strict policy concerning racist and abusive comments would result in a ban of any non-compliant users. But some of the comments were so xenophobic that they have since been reported as hate speech.
Unzensuriert.at, a far-right news website whose former editor-in-chief is now head of communications at the FPÖ-led interior ministry, also commented on the family. In the article it is stated how they can be seen as a sign of the "Muslim infiltration of Europe" because, as years pass, "more and more new year's babies are the children of Muslim immigrants".
To counterbalance all the hateful comments, the organization Netpeace, launched by Greenpeace and a representative of the social relief agency Caritas, posted on social media about the incident and asked their followers to congratulate the family on the birth of their daughter. You can join the other well-wishers by writing positive comments here.
Details from the story:
- Especially since the beginning of the refugee crisis in Europe in 2015, hateful and racist comments have been on the rise online. Some countries have passed new laws in an effort to deal with the situation.
- Since September 2017, an advisory body to counter online hate operates in Austria, run by an anti-racism organization ZARA. Those affected can get professional help there.
- Netpeace was founded by Greenpeace in 2017. The organization wants to be a "new movement for peace and democracy on the internet".