You may have heard of Fraser Anning. If you have, I’m sorry.
The accidental Senator has been a feature of our Australian parliament following the section 44 dual citizenship woes which touched most of the major parties. Unfortunately, in that time, he’s made good use of social media platforms to share his views. Perhaps more unfortunately, those views really have no place in Australia.
It’s not as if this is recent behaviour, either. Since entering the Senate in late 2017, Anning has (ab)used his position as an Australian senator to spread messages of hate and disharmony. For example, upon joining Katter’s Australia Party, he made a speech in the Senate referring to a “final solution” to the problem of immigration in Australia.
If you don’t know what “final solution” refers to, I’d recommend reading up the holocaust and why these particular words are so loaded with meaning. He claimed at the time not to have known about this, or that his use of the phrase was not intended in such a way, but given his entire public pattern of behaviour, this seems highly unlikely.
He has some delightful views on LGBTIQ+ people as well, which I don’t feel compelled to give airtime here. Needless to say, he’s shared those views in the Senate, and on Twitter.
The electoral cycle will take care of Anning’s presence in the Senate, but it’s time to address the other bit.
Let’s talk about Anning on Twitter
From his first use of the platform, Anning has spread all sorts of awful messages. The more controversial tweets espouse Anning’s unpleasant views on immigration, Muslims and basically anyone that’s not straight and white.
Bad enough to have those views, and to share them. Worse still to be an unelected Senator and tarnishing the reputation of Australia’s parliament.
He’s been doing thar for a while though, it isn’t new.
What is new is Anning’s disgusting take on yesterday’s shocking events in Christchurch. Trigger warning, if this upsets you half as much as it does me, you mightn’t want to read further into that.
Anning evidently couldn’t resist the opportunity to pull out his phone and send some tweets, attributing the violence of a racist white man with guns to .. wait for it .. Muslim immigration.
Yes, that’s right, he essentially blamed the victims who – defencelessly – were murdered in their place of worship for being murdered.
There’s nothing right about that, no matter what your views.
Let’s take a look at some more of his recent Twitter thoughts:
I should preface this by noting this is only some of his recent work. This goes back to mid last year when he first came to public attention.
He’s shared similar views about Muslims migrating to Australia too.
It’s pretty clear what Anning’s views are, and they’re shown here not to add any validity to those thoughts, but to demonstrate the kind of use that this man is making of Twitter’s platform.
Sadly, it seems these views are not constrained to Twitter. No, Anning saw fit to attach Australia’s coat of arms to a press release (which he can, as a Senator) spouting the exact same views:
These views have been called out by current and former politicians, news outlets at home and abroad, and widely on Twitter.
Father Rod Bower’s response was especially well worded:
Don't you dare @fraser_anning
Don't you dare quote the Christian scriptures.
Don't you dare twist Jesus' words, honored by both Muslims and Christians. Don't you dare use those words to divide and incite hate.
Just don't you dare.
— Fr Rod Bower (@FrBower) March 15, 2019
And yet, little has been done.
Twitter in particular hasn’t done much at all, and it should.
Why this matters?
Twitter is no stranger to dangerous views.
It has been criticised in the past for being slow to react to a number of controversial figures and messages in recent time. There’s the GamerGate issues, people doxing female journalists, all sorts of Nazi supporters and more. I don’t propose to go into those areas, except to note that Twitter has been roundly criticised in the past for allowing its platform to be used to spread hate, and worse, to encourage physical violence.
And here, today, we’ve got an example of someone in elected office using Twitter’s platform – again – to spread religious hate, painting Muslims (as a whole, mind you) as responsible for an attack on Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch.
In my mind, that’s wrong.
Australia has pretty strong racial vilification laws, and Anning’s contentions are pretty clear and plain to see. The man has wasted no time entering the Senate to spread his views there, and his tweets are only further in the same direction.
Many times in past months I’ve felt compelled to report Anning’s account to Twitter for his hate fueled nonsense. Sadly, as of 15 March 2019, Anning still has a Twitter account, despite almost a year of using the platform to decry Muslims, LGBTIQ+ people and politicians of different beliefs as all legitimate targets of hate.
At the time of writing, some of these tweets have been removed by Twitter. However, that’s not enough. It’s curious that this only happened after I spoke to Twitter’s public relations firm in Australia, but that could just be coincidental timing.
Inciting fear about a protected category
We prohibit targeting individuals with content intended to incite fear or spread fearful stereotypes about a protected category, including asserting that members of a protected category are more likely to take part in dangerous or illegal activities, e.g., “all [religious group] are terrorists”.
When asked by Ausdroid last night what – if anything – Twitter was doing about Anning’s Twitter account, a spokesperson had this to say:
We are committed to combating abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance. We do not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons, however as per our Hateful Conduct Policy, we prohibit behavior that targets individuals based on protected categories including race, ethnicity, national origin or religious affiliation. This includes references to violent events where protected groups have been the primary targets or victims.
If we identify an account or Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include limiting Tweet visibility, requiring a user to delete a Tweet or placing accounts in read-only mode.
It’s time to take action
In this writer’s opinion, Anning has demonstrated a repeated willingness to breach Twitter’s community rules, and it’s time that Twitter did something proper about that. It’s a tech platform that many of us use, and it’s one we feel less inclined to use when Twitter does little about people like Anning so brazenly using their service to vilify and target sections of our community.
Deleting some of his tweets isn’t enough. Twitter needs to remove from him the ability to tweet at all. Stop pussy-footing around these racist, bigoted, hate-fueled individuals. Ban them, and take a strong stand. Twitter has done it with others, like Blair Cottrell, so we know that they know how, and why this matters.
As David Morrison once famously said “the standard you walk by is the standard you accept”. We agree.
Twitter, it’s time to stop walking past this behaviour. Anning’s status as a Senator has no bearing on this decision, and if anything, should hold him to a higher standard.
You have these rules. Enforce them, or you might as well not bother. Worse, when you know there’s someone using your platform in this way, and fail to stop them …
Well, you might as well be complicit.
Ed. As at the morning of 16 March, more than 110 thousand signatures have been added to a Change.org petition to have Anning removed from the Australian parliament. Though there’s no constitutional means to do so, this huge number represents a groundswell of opposition to his messages of hate.