Updated 18/9/2013 in response to a reply from the Army and action against OHPI by members of a Facebook group discussed in this briefing

OHPI is disappointed to see that Facebook is reviewing the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page in response to an organised campaign directed against that page and involving serious hate speech against its administrator.

As supporters of OHPI will be aware, OHPI collaborated with the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page on a petition around ANZAC Day this year. The “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page is large (around 10,500 fans) and has been running since March 2012. This work has not involved fundraising until very recently. The Administrator has recently started some fundraising activity in support of various veterans’ causes and is in the process of setting up a not-for-profit to facilitate this. Her website http://www.diggersupport.org/ is running on a not-for-profit basis and is raising money which will then be spent on care packages. The decision to fundraise is the result of a vote of the pages fans as a whole and was a response to repeated requests for the pages support in supporting specific causes after people approached the page for support on account of the size of its audience.

Having worked with the Administrator of the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page in the past, and reviewed paper work related to the website, OHPI is of the opinion that the concerns we have seen expressed about the Facebook page, the related website, and its administrator are unfounded and part of a concerted effort to undermine their work. OHPI’s research indicated this effort may be lead by organisers of a number of smaller pro-veteran groups on Facebook. It appears to OHPI that the campaign against “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” may be part of an effort by these smaller groups to destroy the competition. A number of these smaller groups and pages are also engaged in fundraising activities.

OHPI has a particular concern regarding the group “Australian Army”. This group is cybersquatting in a misleading manner which implies some official connection or endorsement of the Australian Army (whose page name is “AustralianArmy” and whose address is http://www.facebook.com/TheAustralianArmy ). OHPI has received confirmation from the ArmyHeadquarters that this group is run by the Australian Army or connected to their social media department (see below). We believe the promotion of fundraising and commercial activities through this group may bring the group’s activities into the area of trade and commerce. Given the misleading nature of the name, we believe there may be violation of the Australian Consumer Law. We have referred this matter to the Department for Veterans Affairs and to the Army.

We have a further concern about this group as it is actively engaged in attacks on “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” and its administrator. These attacks include expressions of hate speech such as “Hopefully one day this piece of filth will get what’s coming to her”. They also include allegations of fraud. These allegations are based on information regarding the administrator’s husband who has convictions for fraud over a decade ago. At the time the judge said that while the administrator’s husband “had done untold good for the underprivileged in the Geelong area, he had lived a life of contradiction”. The case involved misappropriation of funds from the charity he ran and a gambling addiction. It followed a successful campaign against Microsoft in support of the community. We understand the administrator’s husband is not involved in the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page or “Digger Support” so his record is irrelevant and the use of it to tarnish his wife may be defamatory.

We have also noted a new page which is cybersquatting at https://www.facebook.com/KeepAnzacDayInItsCurrentForm/ (the same name and a very similar address to the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page which was https://www.facebook.com/pages/KEEP-ANZAC-DAY-IN-ITS-CURRENT-FORM/347301588654770). The new page in its description says: “Due to a large volume of complaints about a page of the same name advertising a not-for-profit charity, this page has been created to air those issues.” The nature of the cybersquatting is very similar to that of the “Australian Army” page. It is a tactic which appear to be based on deception. A name such as “discussion about the page Keep Australia Day in Its Current Form” would avoid such misrepresentation. The page reposts the attack content seen in the “Australian Army” Group as well as other content. A number of the posts to this page have been removed by Facebook for violations of policy.

 

The Online Hate Prevention Institute recommends:

1) Facebook to restore the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page

2) The “Australian Army” group to rename itself (e.g. to “Friends of the Australian Army”)

3) The “Australian Army” group to remove all potentially defamatory posts and hate speech

4) The KeepAnzacDayInItsCurrentForm page to be deleted by its administrator

5) Diggers Support to continue with its efforts to register as a company in Australia with a constitution holding that it operates on a not for profit basis, and for it to register with the Australian Charities and Not For Profit Commission (the ACNC)

6) We also recommend that the attacks against the administrator of the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page be investigated by police and the military. Where these attacks have been undertaken by serving military personnel or government employees that may constitute disciplinary offenses. In either case some of the attack are at a level where it may be appropriate to consider criminal charges.

Communication from the Army (received 18/9/2013):

UNCLASSIFIED

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. The group is not an official account of the Australian Army. This matter has been reported to Facebook.

Army Social Media Directorate of Communication – Army | Army Headquarters

Facebook Banning of Members of the “Australian Army” Group (update 18/9/2013)

DISCLOSURE: OHPI has received a number of posts from members of the “Australian Army” group which is featured in our recent briefing (http://ohpi.org.au/attacks-on-pro-anzac-day-page/). One of these posts was a rather length post seeking to undermine OHPI and its report. We will be removing the posters and banning them from our page, however, we have also provided the following reply (also below in the relevant thread):

In reply to your post to our page we note the following:

(1) Our work is overseen internally by our board of directors and externally by various government departments, ministries and commissions. We declare any connection we have to any person or group discussed in our reports as a matter of course. It is up to each reader to decide how much weight they put in our reports.

(2) We don’t engage in debate with people seeking to undermine our work, to do so would be a waste of our time and resources and as such would be detrimental to our charitable work. We certainly don’t engage in such debate on our Facebook page which is part of our communication platform and as such is used to further our charitable objective. This is one reason your post is being removed.

(3) We note that your post starts with an assumption of criminal guilt of the administrator of the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page and then challenges OHPI to prove the innocence of the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page administrator in relation to various vaguely formed accusations you make. Defamation law was created to prevent this sort of attack on people and their reputation. OHPI is a harm prevention charity whose primary objective is “to act in the public interest for the prevention and control of online behaviour that is harmful or abusive to human beings”. The attacks on the page administrator, which we believe may constitution defamation, are the sort of online behaviour we are here to prevent. You post includes further attacks which we believe are harmful, which is a second reason your post is being removed.

(4) While declaring that we have previously worked with the “KEEP ANZAC DAY IN ITS CURRENT FORM” page administrator, we believe this experience is a valid basis on which to assess their sincerity in their support for veterans. As you point out, this is a judgement as to their character. Regarding their activities, we have reviewed various communications from them and others and a number of the accusations we have seen made are clearly false. We are also aware of a campaign of intimidation designed to stop people, who could clarify various matters which would entirely disprove various assertions made against the administrator, from publicly doing so. This is an objective assessment based on evidence.

(5) We are aware of various attacks against the administrator which may be breaches of the criminal law. As is common with OHPI investigations, in addition to the briefings and reports we release publicly, we also produce confidential reports which may be shared with law enforcement, government agencies, government departments and relevant ministers and their ministries. In this instance OHPI has referred a number of matters to various government authorities. One, the Army, has already taken action as you can see from our updated briefing. As there are a number of active investigations underway we won’t comment further on this.

(6) As a matter of policy OHPI tries to avoid naming individuals (by their real name) in our work. You’ll note that our reports redact the identity even of those we prove are promoting hate speech. Others like the anti-bogan blog take a different approach and name and shame. Tim, without commenting further, we note that (a) you are involved in the page “Australian Army” that is a subject of the OHPI briefing you are questioning (and the subject of a complaint to Facebook by the Australian Army itself), (b) this raises a question about your purpose in questioning OHPI’s briefing and investigation – this is a third reason for removing your post (we don’t believe the questions are raised in good faith).

After careful consideration we will be blocking your account and a number of others from the OHPI page. For clarity these blocks are not being done under our no platform policy, but rather as a means of protecting our infrastructure (in light of item 2 above). This post will be posted both as a reply to your post and as a new update to ensure transparency of our moderation.

Note about OHPI

In light of the nature of this briefing with questions of the legitimacy of various Facebook pages and websites saying they are operating in a not for profit manner we highlight that the Online Hate Prevention Institute is a registered Australian Harm Prevention Charity and our credentials can be seen here.