Opinion: By failing to act against Fraser Anning, Twitter may as well support his views. That’s not good enough.

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.

Ausdroid is Advertising Supported

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:

Ausdroid isn’t the only news outlet to call out Anning’s appalling behaviour today, and we’re definitely not the biggest. Both NZ Herald and news.com.au have done similarly.

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.

Twitter’s policy on hate speech is pretty clear:

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. 

Last modified on 23 March 2019 7:21 am

" Chris Rowland : @ozcjr Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.."

View Comments (37)

    • Sorry Lindsay, but you're wrong - it belongs here as much as anywhere else. This is a tech story, and it's entirely about the misuse of that technology to spread hate, fear and loathing. I'm not going to stand by and tolerate it.

      • I don't wish to get into an argument with you, Chris, but despite your claim that this is a tech story, it is not. You think Fraser Anning is a dick - so do I, but that's not the point. You are using Ausdroid as a vehicle for expressing your personal, political views. I believe you should use a more appropriate social media platform, such as Facebook or Twitter, to do that. I also believe that you guys at Ausdroid should stick to doing what you do best, that is discovering and reporting on tech news from around the globe. If I want to read opinion pieces on controversial politicians, I will go to the ABC or Skynews. And please don't tell me to 'find my tech news somewhere else' just because I happen to hold a different point of view. I value Ausdroid as an important source of current tech news. Just sayin . .

        • You're welcome to read wherever you like, here or elsewhere, and if you read more into the history of Anning, the history of his (and others') use of technology to spread this kind of messaging without any adherence to the rules of those platforms (or enforcement of those rules BY the platforms) then you'd realise this is, as much as anything else, a story about technology and it's failings.

          However, that's a side issue. You're right, I did use Ausdroid as a platform to express an opinion, and that's what the site exists to do. It just so happens this view is a bit more political than usual, but equally, so what?

          Technology isn't divorced from politics, and politics doesn't take place in a vacuum. If I want to point out Anning's views and identify them as racist, wrong and dangerous, and to call Twitter out for doing nothing about his abuse of their platform, then I will.

  • That politician - who has views that belong in 1939 - obviously has some sympathisers here among commenters.

    Shockingly, comments (below) such as "go home" echo the wording in the manifesto of the perpetrator in New Zealand. Go home to where? It assumes your 'home' is a different country, while this country belongs to the commenter.

    Are those comments a random sample of the Australian population? Scary.

  • It's a false equivalents that race and religious baiting hate speech has the same standing as an exchange of fact based debate. You're not going to get a rational response from people who backs the right to spew this dog whistling hatred.

  • Respectfully Chris, I must agree with Lindsay. I abhor Annings point of view, but also believe that the best response is to deny it as much oxygen as possible. The greatest thing about this country is that he has every right to say what he feels, and the correct response is not to egg him, not to listen to him, but to un-vote him back into the hole he crawled out of. Lets focus on what's good in the world (Android in Oz!) and deny this shameful human any more fuel.

  • I don't expect a private company owned and run majorly by Americans to take a stand against a political figure in another country for writing inflammatory comments.

  • Fraser anning was wrong with what he said, but so are you Chris Rowland, when you try to stop free speech. Let him say what he wants, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    • Oh a "free speech" guy, just waiting for you to call everyone snowflakes and push your hate. Away with you, you have no power here.

  • Chris mate you know you're on the right track when all the alt right babies have come out to cry

  • I'm glad Ausdroid engages in discussion like this, I think technology's role in promoting violence is absolutely part of Ausdroid's scope. However as has already been commented here, how do you censor bigots like Anning without heading down the slippery slope towards 1984-style big brother thought policing? A line probably needs to be drawn somewhere, but I don't think blocking guys like Anning is it, as disgusted as I personally am by everything he spouts. You'll never be able to prevent people with horrible world views from walking among us, all you can do is prevent them having the power to take a lot of lives once they completely lose it. Gun control is the answer.

    • There isn't an easy solution but I think we need to demarcate provocative hate speech from "normal speech". Similarly with blocking online spaces that are hosting the terrible footage from the horrific event.

  • Noice brewery the biggest cry babies are almost always the left, and bye the way I'm not alt right because I don't beleave the left wing rubbish that gets rammed down our throats every day.