Online hate speech against minority groups is on the rise following the Christchurch terrorist attacks, a new survey has found.

A Netsafe research has found seven in 10 adult New Zealanders thought online hate speech was spreading and a third of personal incidents occurred after March 15.

The study found online hate to be more prevalent among minority groups.

More than half, or 52 per cent of Muslim respondents said they were personally targeted with online hate speech in the past 12 months. This was higher than 32 per cent of Hindus, 13 per cent of Christians and 3 per cent Buddhists.


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"Online hate speech is a complex issue and a hard problem to solve," said Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker.

"It is difficult to help people with the current legal and technical tools available, but we do our best to support people who are impacted."

One in three people with disabilities were exposed to online hate compared to one in four non-disabled people. Male and younger adults were also targeted more than females and older adults.

Religion, political views, race and gender were the most common reasons why people faced hate speech.

About 30 per cent of respondents also said they had seen or encountered hate content that targeted someone else.

"Online hate speech affects groups unequally and some people are experiencing serious harm as a result," Cocker said.

"People can disagree or have an alternate viewpoint online, but when actions become harmful there should be support, resolution and even prosecution options available."


About 80 per cent of respondents felt everyone played a role in addressing hateful speech and more than half disagreed that people should be entitled to say whatever they want online.

Overall, 15 per cent reported having been personally targeted with online hate speech in the last year, up 4 points from 2018.

Eight in 10 also believed social media platforms should do more to stop online hate.

The survey was conducted as part of a larger project regarding online risks and harm. A total of 1161 adults took part in the online survey conducted between June 2 and 26, 2019.