COMMUNITY leaders say section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) helped them to persuade Facebook this week to close down a page run by the Australian branch of the far-right Greek political party Golden Dawn.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) presented the social networking site and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) with a briefing on Golden Dawn in Australia and on the Australia First Party, which has ties with the local Golden Dawn branch and which held a rally in Brisbane earlier this month, which drew Golden Dawn supporters.

OPHI’s CEO Dr Andre Oboler said Facebook has closed the page following the briefing. A Facebook notice stated the page “violated our community standards”.

Oboler expressed concern that racist and anti-Semitic groups are using social media to consolidate their activities and draw supporters to events like the Brisbane rally.

Australia First party president Jim Saleam posted that the Golden Dawn page “is now squarely in the sites [sic] of a Zionist group”. Oboler explained that OHPI “is a harm prevention charity, not a Zionist group. We did, however, grow out of a project based within the Zionist Federation of Australia”.

He went on to stress the important role  the RDA in its current form plays in combating online racism. “The removal of the Australian Golden Dawn page is a testament to the impact those laws have in moderating behaviour, often, as in this case, without the involvement of the courts or even the lodging of a formal complaint … Had section 18C been removed, it is doubtful this page would have come down.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim hailed the decision to remove the Golden Dawn page. “It was disturbing to see Facebook being used by racist organisations as a way of connecting up and amplifying their efforts.

In the end, Facebook did the right thing by removing the entire content of Golden Dawn’s Facebook page, which was directed mainly against people with dark-coloured skin.”

Source: Peter Kohn, “18C helped beat Facebook hate page”, The Australian Jewish News, 16 May 2014, page 4