Posts Tagged ‘Race Discrimination’

In response to my grizzle to the Human Rights Commission yesterday about my apparent inability to instigation action against either Facebook or the Facebook pages of Abo-Memes, I received a detailed response today.

Dear Ross

I appreciate your comments.

It may be helpful if I clarify the various ways the Commission seeks to protect and promote human rights. One option provided in federal discrimination law is for aggrieved people or groups to make complaints about racial discrimination and racial hatred. I clarified the requirements in the law regarding this in my previous email. 

Additionally, the Commission and its specific Commissioners have a policy and advocacy role which includes drawing attention to human rights issues, raising community awareness and encouraging positive action by governments, service providers and others. 

As you may be aware, Ms Helen Szoke, Race Discrimination Commissioner is aware of the issues raised by the Facebook page and has commented publicly on this. She has advocated strongly for the removal of the page and continues to monitor the situation closely. I have provided a link to information on our website regarding this. 

http://www.hreoc.gov.au/about/media/news/2012/78_12.html

The above link makes interesting reading although I am prepared to dispute the accuracy of some of the statements. For example the content allegedly removed on Wednesday August 7th, was in fact still present the following day as I was making liberal use of it in my blogging etc.

The statements by Commissioner Szoke include advice to Facebook that:

  • now was a good opportunity for the site to revisit its guidelines and test if they are in tune with community opinion;
  • [there was a need to ensure] that social media such as Facebook have standards which… comply with legal requirements [emphasis added]

I believe the outcry over this matter should amply demonstrate that Facebook’s attitudes are most definitely not in tune with ‘community opinion’. The disrespectful attitudes of a limited number of red-necked fools should not be permitted to remain when they are so clearly out of line with the rest of the community in a manner that is intentionally hurtful and incredibly inappropriate. Freedom of speech is a widely held civic ‘right’ that is in fact a privileged earned by our democratic forebears and a concept that should not be subject to protection of abuse such as racial vilification and hate speech. Legitimate dissent or protest is one thing. Straight out abuse of that protection afforded by Facebook is another matter entirely. Again I refer to statements made on the Abo-Memes pages that they were ‘untouchable.’

Even more important is the concern that Facebook may be acting in a manner that does not comply with legal requirements. This should not have been a surprise to Facebook. They have operations within Australia and therefore are required to act in a manner that is lawful within this jurisdiction. I have no doubt that I was not the only complainant to draw Facebook’s attention to Race Discrimination legal concerns but that did not stop them quite blithely dismissing complaints. Facebook are still yet to respond to my repeated complaints and requests for further information.

Now if Facebook cannot afford to pay for legal support to explain these matters to them, the Human Rights Commission have a fact sheet on their website which explains matters quite clearly: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/publications/cyberracism_factsheet.html

I suggest Facebook staff start acquainting themselves with that information.

The statement by Commissioner Szoke also notes that the “Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has confirmed that it is currently investigating the page on the site.” I am unable to locate any specific information on the ACMA’s website concerning this. However a simple perusal of the ACMA’s website make it pretty darned clear that the behaviour in question is definitely questionable at best under the Authority’s remit.

Facebook’s blindingly obvious double-standards in application of its Community Standards make me seriously question just how much attention it shall actually pay to what amounts to nothing more than ‘concerns’ expressed by the Commissioner. Nothing seems to be in place to force Facebook to actually do anything to bring its behaviour into accord not just with the ‘community opinion’ but actually accord with the law within Australian jurisdictions. So long as matters may only be addressed one case at a time, with Facebook’s seemingly automatic rejection of genuine and serious complaints, then this behaviour would seem to be able to continue. Note how quickly Abo-Memes appeared in the wake of a similar collection of Facebook pages being removed.

My advice to anyone else similarly concerned as I am, especially if of indigenous descent, is to lodge complaints with both the Human Rights Commission and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Once again, Mark Zuckerberg, is this what you expected or wanted Facebook to be? Hey Mr Billionaire – how about taking a break from kicking around with the glitterati and your mates and do something about this mess!

Some interesting developments have emerged from the continuing disgrace that was Facebook allowing and implicitly defending racial vilification.

I referred matters to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Today I received the following advice from the Commission:

Racial hatred is
·        an act that is done in public;
·        which is done because of the race, colour, or national or ethnic origin of a person or group; and which is
·        reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate that person or group.

1. The Abo-Memes account on Facebook and its predecessor were by definition ‘public’
2. It was expressly targeting indigenous Australians by virtue of their “race, colour, or national or ethnic origin”
3. I have obtained opinion from Indigenous Australians that I know and it was 100% offense (and most definitely not, as one of Abo-Meme’s public supporters claimed in those pages, that 98% of Aboriginals would not have a problem with the content!).

So it appears to be pretty much a textbook case that this material fits the legal definition of ‘racial hatred’ in Australian legal jurisdictions. So the question that Facebook are still yet to answer is why they elected to defend those acts of racial hatred?  Remember that Facebook dismissed my complaint against the Abo-Memes Facebook pages on the basis that it did not breach Facebook’s Community Standards. And those Community Standards include acts of:
– Bullying and Harassment; and
– Hate Speech.

Quite clearly the actions of Abo-Memes were both racial harassment and hate speech. Under the Australian Human Rights legislation, the actions of Abo-Memes were in breach of the legislation and thus sure to be found to be illegal. But Facebook apparently deem themselves  to be above a nation’s own laws. By claiming there was no evidence of any breach of Community Standards, impso facto, Facebook would appear to be defending those actions despite quite clear legislative restraints.. And they are still yet to respond to me on these matters.

Now the downside of things. I am not of Indigenous Australian descent. I wouldn’t have thought that to be terribly relevant. However under the same Human Rights legislation, I am not able to lodge a complaint relating to indigenous matters as blatant as those of Abo-Memes because I am not of indigenous descent, not matter how offended and upset I may have been. By that same logic, John F Kennedy would not have been able to enact his Civil Rights reforms in the USA because he was (as far as I am aware) not of African American descent and those reforms did not represent any specific party but overall social and civic reform. 

So no matter how many of us are offended by those acts of racial vilification that are a textbook example of breaching Australian Human Rights  legislation, it is only a small minority of persons who are actually allowed to take action against it. 

Am I the only one who thinks this is complete garbage?

Before reading further, be warned – some of the following IS offensive.  VERY OFFENSIVE.

Facebook is a quite remarkable thing. It seems to have become an almost indispensable part of modern life. And being such a huge part of modern life, like any responsible organisation Facebook has its very own Community Standards that users are required to abide by. Breach these and die the death of a thousand isp failures! All such serious stuff.

So just how do Facebook apply this? Well let us look at some samples.

Breastfeeding. Oh gosh. Just writing that word has given me the shivers of dread. According to Facebook, an image of breastfeeding is something that MUST be taken seriously. Any such image must be subjected to careful scrutiny. Afterall, Facebook takes everything so very seriously. Supposedly. Their justification is that as the minimum age for Facebook users is 13 years of age, they have an obligation to ensure minors are not subjected to what Facebook deems to be inappropriate material. And in this response to a query, Facebook clarified things even further. For a breastfeeding picture to be permissable, the baby must be in the act of actually feeding. Anything other than that is quite obviously going to poison the minds of impressionable young minds all over the world. And as Facebook have thus decreed, thus it must apparently be.

Here is a breastfeeding picture. The baby is well and truly busy feeding. This is beautiful. This is natural. This is suited for an audience that may include as young as age 13.

Here is a breastfeeding picture. This is EVIL. This shalt corrupt the minds of young all over the world. Facebook must deny any such access or face world domination by adolescents sent crazy by the sight of a nipple that is not being suckled on by that baby.

So just when do Facebook actually remove those items they determine to be ‘inappropriate’. Simple. This requires another user to lodge a complaint against a particular Facebook page. The Facebook staff then examine the page in question, comparing it to the Facebook Community Standards and if any breach of these is found to have occurred, then the content or even the account shall be removed.

Aren’t we all just so glad that Facebook is there to determine just when breastfeeding is an offensive evil that must be stamped out from any visualisation.  Even better, Facebook are there to tell us what is considered acceptable to the wider community of users. Well silly me – I had not realised that the sight of a nipple was so terrible unacceptable. May the Good Lord bless Facebook for protecting me in this manner. But where were they when I was a youngster and my mother was breastfeeding my younger brothers? Oh no – all that is bad, wrong and evil that has happened to me ever since – why that must have occurred because I may have seen Mother’s nipple at some point during that breastfeeding in the privacy of the family home. Bless you Facebook for enlightening me thusly!

Let us examine another example. A recent addition to the world of Facebook was an account called Abo-Memes. And this user was on a mission. They were going to allow us all to see what was really happening within the world of Indigenous Australians.

Here are some examples of this great benefit to the world, supplied to us by Abo-Memes via Facebook.

Note – do a Google search for images with the tag Abo-Memes and the above may be located along with the statement ‘Abo Memes shared Abo Memes’s photo. facebook.com’

So the question becomes – is this ‘acceptable’?

I didn’t think so. I lodged a complaint with Facebook against this activity. And soon enough, Facebook completed their review of this content and its comparison with the Holy Creed that is the Facebook Community Standards. And here, word for word, is Facebook’s response to me.

“After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the
specific page you reported violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and
Responsibilities.

Learn more about what we do and don’t allow by reviewing the Facebook
Community Standards: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards.

Thanks,
Viki”

So I had a closer look at the Holy Creed. And lo, it has two particular verses of interest – thou shalt not engage in activity that is:
– Harassing or Bullying
– Hate Speech

Oh Blessed Be, Holy Facebook. In my poor ignorance, I was foolish enough to think that the activity engaged in by Abo-Memes was both Harassing Indigenous Australians and engendering Hate Speech. Oh thank you, dear Facebook, for educating me that this is in fact entirely adequate and appropriate for the Facebook universe including those 13 year-old minds that were in such danger of being permanently corrupted by that sight of an engorged nipple!

OK, I am getting sick of writing that nonsense. This activity was very clearly in breach of those aspects of the Facebook Community Standards. And for ‘Viki’ to defend this activity on behalf of Facebook was nothing short of outrageous.

Then as I was looking into things more closely, something struck me. By a simple reading of the times of various media reports and  press statements, by the time Viki on behalf of Facebook had decided to deny anything inappropriate about that Abo-Memes filth, it seems that Facebook:

  • had already been informed by the Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner that the material in question was potentially in breach of Australian Race Discrimination laws;
  • had publicly stated it was ‘in dialogue’ with the Commissioner over the matter; and
  • had been advised that the material was under legal investigation.

Despite these serious developments and Facebook’s admission it was in discussions to clarify matters, Facebook staff were still claiming nothing was wrong and blithely dismissing complaints by claiming there was no breach of their Community Standards.

At the time of writing this post, Facebook have so far declined to respond to my further complaint which expressly cited the specific points within their Community Standards that I believe were breached by that user.

Earlier this evening, that Abo-Memes Facebook account suddenly disappeared. Earlier in the day the user and some of their supporters were using the the account to openly boast of their activity and claiming they were ‘untouchable’. With that attitude, I find it hard to believe that said user had willing removed it themselves. I have just paused in writing to check some news websites seeing if there was any ‘breaking news’ about this matter. Nope.

Perhaps Facebook have indeed seen sense and removed the item. But some far bigger questions still remain.

  1. Why do Facebook deem an image of an engorged nipple to be such a threat to minors but this Abo-Memes garbage was just fine and dandy with complaints against it seemingly subjected to automatic rejection?
  2. Why did Facebook continue to dismiss legitimate complaints about this filth apparently AFTER they had been warned of the potential legal ramifications, apparently AFTER they had allegedly commenced ‘dialogue’ with the the Race Discrimination Commissioner on the subject and apparently AFTER legal investigations had commenced?
  3. As the Abo-Memes account appeared very swiftly after another similar, possibly worse, account was removed in the wake of public outcry, why did Facebook continue to allow such filth to be perpetuated apparently AFTER receiving formal warnings?
  4. What is to stop yet more copy-cat accounts springing up and Facebook continuing its implicit defense of those activities?

Hey Mark Zuckerburg – is this really what you meant Facebook to be?

I doubt this matter is over just yet.