On December 21st 2017 a car deliberately drove through pedestrians outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. 19 people were injured and one later died in hospital. The driver was known to police and had a history of mental health issues and drug abuse. An Australian citizen of Afghan background, he had come to Australia as a refugee. In a press briefing that evening the Acting Commissioner of Victoria Police said “We haven’t found anything at all to indicate his linkage or involvement with any type of extremism with any terrorism organisation or anything of a terrorist nature”. Before, during and after the press briefing, the far right continue to promote the incident as a Muslim terrorist attack. This fed anti-Muslim sentiment and some responses crossed the line into religious vilification, serious religious vilification or incitement. This briefing looks at the response on social media by police, the far right and some in the Muslim community.

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This articles was last updated on 3 January 2017. 

Table of Contents

 

Background on the Flinders Street Car Attack

At 4:41 pm on Thursday December 21st 2017, a car traveling at speed drove through pedestrians outside Flinders Street Station in Melbourne. Shortly after, police described the act as “deliberate” but said they have not yet attributed a motive to it. 19 people were injured, 4 of them critically. One of the injured, 83 year old Antonios Crocaris, later died in hospital.

Right after hitting the pedestrians, the car crashed into a tram stop. An off-duty police officer was at the crashed car within seconds and dragged the driver from the car and detained him. The driver struggled and resisted the arrest. The officer, an unnamed sergeant who is being hailed as hero, injured his shoulder and hand  in the process and was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery. Victoria Police’s Acting Commissioner Shane Patton told a press conference the driver was known to police due to a minor assault back in 2010, and he had a history of drug use and mental health issues (see press briefing below). The Acting Commissioner told the press there was no evidence or intelligence to suggest a connection terrorism. The driver was described by the Acting Commissioner as a 32-year-old Australian citizen of Afghan descent. He was later identified as Saeed Noori. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the media that Noori had come to Australia as a refugee. Following further investigation including a search of multiple properties Acting Commissioner Patton told the media “We haven’t found anything at all to indicate his linkage or involvement with any type of extremism with any terrorism organisation or anything of a terrorist nature”.

A second man was arrested at the scene by police. He had been standing near where the vehicle came to stop and filming the incident. When searched by police they found three knives in his bag. After interviewing him police found he was not involved in the incident. He was charged with possession of cannabis and a weapon and released with a summons to appear in court at a later time.

News of the attack spread internationally across both social media and mainstream media. While reputable news sources in Australia waited for more information, overseas tabloids and social media campaigners jumped in seeking to spread a narrative that labeled the attack as Muslim Terrorism within minutes of it occurring and before the facts began to emerge. A significant amount of false information was spread through these channels. The same thing occurred during the Bourke Street attack in January. The January attack was a result of drugs and mental health and issues, not a terrorist attack, as was explained by the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police. Back in January that announcement didn’t stop many in what is known as the “Counter Jihad” movement from spinning their own narrative, including assertions of a media and government cover up when then facts failed to support what they had published. After today’s attack the same thing occurred again, both before and after police released information clarifying the situation.

In an incident like this the public should rely on trusted sources of information and not on social media posts which may or may not be authentic or authoritative, nor on overseas journalists reporting from the other side of the world based on those unverified social media posts. Victoria Police are very effective on social media and we encourage people to look to their Twitter @VictoriaPolice for official updates when such incidents occur in Victoria.

The remainder of this post documents the response on social media. We start this by documenting the response of Victoria Police who have again done an excellent job in keeping the public updated through social media. We’ll then look at some of the misinformation which was spread through social media.

The Online Response by Victoria Police

The first updated from Victoria Police occurred on Twitter at 5:02 pm, around 30 minutes after the incident.

The same message appeared on Facebook at 5:05 pm.

At 5:47 pm on Facebook and 5:49 pm on Twitter, police began requesting footage of the incident from the public via social media. This was repeated on Facebook at 7:27 pm.

At 6:17 pm on Facebook Victoria Police again called on witnesses to attend the Melbourne West Police Station. This call was repeated at 7:47 pm.

At 6:19 pm on Twitter police announced they had “saturated the CBD area following an incident where a car has collided with a number of pedestrians on Flinders Street. All vehicular and pedestrian traffic are advised to avoid the area”. The Tweet linked to a press release with additional details. 

The Press Release itself had gone live at 6:05 pm and reiterated the previously released information while adding that the “driver of the vehicle and a second man have been arrested and are in police custody” and that a “number of people were treated at the scene for a range of injuries and have been transported to hospital.”

At 7:19 pm Police announced on Facebook that there was a press release starting and provided a link to a YouTube feed.  7:20 pm on Twitter (and presumably the same time on YouTube) they began streaming the press conference.

“At approximately 4:45pm this afternoon a vehicle has struck a number of pedestrians in the Melbourne CDB at the intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth St. Police arrived at the scene within minutes and have arrested 2 men. At this stage we have 14 people injured, and several are critical. At this stage we believe it is a deliberate act, can I repeat that, at this stage we believe it is a deliberate act, however, we do not know the motivation, and it is still early stages of the investigation. Police and emergency services will remain on scene for the foreseeable future. Crime command have primacy of the investigation and we are requesting people to avoid the area. Can I repeat that, the crime scene will be in place for a considerable period of time, and we are urging people who can avoid the area, to avoid the area. Police will continue to have a strong presence in the Melbourne CBD tonight. People may have items and vehicles within the crime scene. At this stage they will not be able to be retrieved until the crime scene is reopened. We understand that this has been a very traumatic event and there will be witnesses, victims and family members affected. Anyone who witnessed the incident is urged to attend the Spencer St Police Station at 313 Spencer St Melbourne to make a statement. Welfare services are present at that location. We encourage anyone with any other information to contact crime stoppers. Thank you.”

Question from media: You told us it was a deliberate act, can you tell us why you believe that?

“We believe base don what we’ve seen that it’s a deliberate act, the motivations are unknown, but it is still early days in the investigation.”

Question: Have you ruled out terror as a motivation?

“At this stage it is early days in the investigation and the motivation is unknown.”

By 9:50 pm the Twitter version of the press conference had been seen 14,000 times while the YouTube version had been seen just 381 times. This is unsurprising as Victoria Police has just 5,700 subscribers on YouTube compared to their 218,000 Twitter followers and 560,196 Facebook fans. A Facebook live feed would have received far more coverage than both Twitter and YouTube. In later discussions with Victoria Police it emerged that a Facebook Live stream was attempted but Facebook’s automated tools would not permit this on the grounds that it detected copyright audio in the background. The audio appears to have stopped by the time the Twitter streaming started.

Recommendation: Facebook should automatically apply an exemption to the copyright right checking protocols for live streams from authenticated emergency services accounts. Alternatively, Facebook should down grade the block to a warning the user has the option to override.

Incidental and unintentional music in the background during a live press conference with emergency services would fall under the fair use exception to US copyright law and the News Reporting fair dealings exception to Australian copyright law. Of course asking for the music to be switched off would be preferable if possible as it will make the press conference easier to hear.

At 8:04pm on Facebook the Victoria Police moderator posted a reply to each of their posts saying “We welcome comments from our Facebook community but will not tolerate inappropriate comments. If you breach our terms and conditions → http://bit.ly/vicpolsocial you will be banned from the page.” The was a response to a range of abusive posts.

At 8:55 pm on Facebook Victoria Police released a map of the part of the city that was closed off.

At 9:37 pm Victorian Police broadcast live on Facebook from their Press Conference with the Premier of Victoria. A tweet at 9:05 pm, repeated at 9:30 pm referred the public to the police media page to watch the live stream of the media conference. On the Victoria Police Media page the conference was live streamed using the Content Delivery Network (CDN) a service by metaCDN.

In the press conference Victoria Police’s Acting Commissioner Shane Patton said that:

  • an absolutely horrific incident
  • At approximately 4:41 pm a white four-wheel drive went from a stationary position to allegedly deliberately drive into a large number of pedestrians.
  • The male driver was arrested by an off duty police officer following a struggle in which he resisted arrest – the officer and the driver are in hospital
  • A 24 year old man in the proximity of the incident who was filming it on his phone while in possession of a bag that had knives in it was also taken into custody (in Q & A he clarified that the man had 3 knives in his bag, they were found when he was searched as part of routine policing, he is still being questioned but at this stage they do not believe he was involved in the incident)
  • The driver was alone int he car. He is a 32 year old Australian citizen of Afghan descent. He is known to police and has a history of assault, but is not on bail or subject to any correction orders or anything of the like. He has a history of drug use and mental health issues. He is on a mental health plan and receiving treatment for a mental illness. (In Q & A he clarified that the driver had an interaction with police for a minor assault back in 2010, more recently he interacted with police over some driving offences some months ago)
  • The scene is being worked on by the major collision investigation unit and the homicide squad and they are being supported by the counter terrorism command. “We don’t at this time have any evidence or any intelligence to indicate there is a connection with terrorism”, “having said that, however, we continue to support this investigation with our counter terrorism command to ensure that there isn’t that connection and that there isn’t an on-going threat. We have no evidence to suggest there is, but from a completeness perspective that’s what we’re doing”.
  • Given the festive season, the boxing day test, the carols etc there will be an increased police presence in the city,  but there is no increased threat to any of those events. “Let’s be clear, there is no increased threat. At this stage we believe and understand this is quarantined to this singular incident and we are exploring the extent of that.”
  • “We have to be strong and we have to continue on as a community. We’re asking everyone to come in, go to the carols, go to the cricket, continue to enjoy yourselves. We will continue to provide every level of assurance we can.”
  • Working with ASIO, Australia Federal Police and other agencies, there is no intelligence to suggest the driver is a person of interest for terrorism related reasons.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews added:

  • “What occurred on Flinders Street this afternoon was an act of evil, and an act of cowardice. At a time when so many families are celebrating the end of the year, doing their Christmas shopping, making plans for what ought to be a festive season, we have seen a horrific act, an evil act, an act of cowardice, perpetrated against innocent bystanders. We are all caught up in this. We are all deeply sad and deeply wounded by this terrible, terrible, act. It is however  a source of pride for us that strangers came to the aid of people they had never met before, that our police, our firefighters, our ambulance paramedics were there is good time and did their job.”
  • There are 19 in hospital. 15 in a stable condition and 4 in a critical condition.
  • Victim and other support line for people caught up and impacted by this: 1800 819 817
  • Victoria Police were on the scene within 15 seconds of the incident, Ambulance Victoria were on the scene within 5 minutes.
  • There is no intelligence to suggest we need to change our current threat level

Additional information from the Q & A:

  • The car used was not stolen, it belongs to a family member
  • The driver only came to police attention today from this incident (unlike the Bourke Street attack)
  • The Acting Commissioner rejected the characterisation of the incident as a “lone wolf act” saying it is “a horrific incident where a person has driven directly at pedestrians, it’s a crime”

 

Within 26 minutes the press conference already had 46,000 views on Facebook, far more than the initial press source.  The result was far fewer retweets and the number views is unknown. Another disadvantage is that once the press conference was over the feed died, unlike the earlier broadcast on Twitter, or the broadcast on Facebook, which allowed people re-watch the broadcast. It would have been far more effective for Victoria Police to broadcast live on Twitter (in addition to Facebook) as they had done earlier.

Additional recommendations:

1. Victoria Police’s social media team did an outstanding job both during and following the incident and this excellent work should be acknowledged.

An acknowledgement will help to ensure the rest of the force appreciates this increasingly important role and provide a moral boost those involved in what can often be highly stressful work in an often abusive front-line environment.

2. Victoria Police should live stream all press conferences on both Facebook and Twitter.

These platforms reach different real time audiences. After the fact having videos which can spread organically through both Facebook and Twitter increases the reach of the message.

3. An unedited recording recording of press conferences should be placed on YouTube with a transcript available in the description.

This will off-set conspiracy videos that will appear on YouTube and the transcript will help attract people to the YouTube video via YouTube’s search function. copy after the fact, while Facebook and Twitter meet the more immediate public demand for information.

4. The webpage with the propriety live streaming should be removed / not promoted to the public.

Promoting it removes the social aspect of the social media, it makes it less likely the message itself will be spread. Instead the public should be able to see the press conference through the platform they are already using. From there they the platform itself will allow them to help propagate the content.

5. We recommend continuing the approach of publishing a link to an acceptable use policy and banning users who do not comply with it, but suggest this message be embedded at the end of each Facebook post and not posted as a separate comment.

The policy of banning those who troll the Facebook page, and doing so under a policy which is public and announced in the posts which are likely to lead to such bans, is to be commended. Integrating the warning into the posts, so it appears with them rather than as a later warning, will ensure all users who see a post are made aware of the policy before they comment. In this case the information about the moderation policy appeared in comments made some hours after incident, so it is possible some users may have commented inappropriately before seeing the warning.

6. While roughly the same content should go out on Facebook and Twitter, the platforms could be used more naturally if this was slightly relaxed.

E.g. splitting posts on Facebook because of the character limit on Twitter looks clumsy. Similarly re-posting the same information multiple times on Facebook is not ideal – instead have a pinned post and update it (and allow it become longer) as there is more urgent information everyone should be aware of e.g. in this case the information about calls for photos / videos, instruction of where to go to give a statement – these messages should not complete with each other for attention.

7. Victoria Police should archive all posts that need to be removed from its own Facebook page and where needed follow up with a formal warning

E.g. if people post threats or incitement on the Victoria Police Facebook page, it is important they receive at least a warning about possible breaches of the law. If this is not done when the activity occurs “in front of police” it reinforces an idea that Victoria Police will not take threats or incitement on social media seriously.

The Social Media Response

The strange case of Amy Mek

At 7:16pm Amy Mek writes “No Surprise about today’s TERROR attack in #Melbourne … JEWS ARE NO LONGER WELCOME IN SHARIA AUSTRALIA! Synagogues are now being BANNED because Jihadists Might Blow them up! #Conquered”.

 

Her posts includes an old video from Russia Today full of content about terrorism but unrelated to the events today. Her account profile includes a link to the website of the “Resistance Against Islamic Radicals Foundation” which describes itself as “a grassroots action organization whose mission is to stop the Jihadi infiltration in our American communities”. She has 205,000 followers and was quoted in the New York Time in May 2016 in an article on Trump’s female supporters. Back in March Maureen Erwin went searching for Amy, trying to track down the person behind the account. Her conclusion, “I’m not convinced Amy exists”.  An analysis of the Tweets and an inability to find a real person matching the accounts details suggest this account does not belong to a real person, but is instead a political tool, either astroturfing or a bot or a combination of both. With it’s open hate of Muslims 

The Tweet above was in fact the 5th Tweet with the hashtag #Melbourne which “Amy” posted today. The response seems to have been triggered by #Melbourne starting to trend. The Tweets were made at 6:59 pm, 7:08 pm, 7:12 pm, a retweet of her own earlier tweet, 7:16pm, 7:18 pm, 7:26pm, 7:33 pm, 7:39 pm, then two re-tweets. That of course is in local Melbourne time. In New York where Amy is supposedly based, that would be 2:59 am, 3:08 am, 3:12 am, 3:16 am, 3:18 am, 3:26 am, 3:33 am, and 3:39 am.

Her first #Melbourne Tweet refers to a “‘Religion of Peace’ problem” and shows tributes after a different attack, but seeks to make it look like it is Melbourne. At the time of the post the location of the attack was still an active crime scene, people were still receiving medical attention, Melbourne was still in shock.

 

 

Her second Tweet includes a video about ISIS encouraging terrorist attacks with vehicles. The text of the tweets makes it look like this might be analysis of the current event. The text reads, ‘ANOTHER Vehicular Jihad Attack, this time in Australia! #Melbourne Jihadist Plows his Car into a crowd of pedestrian injures dozens! ISIS to Muslims: “There are weapons & cars available & targets ready to be hit. Kill them & spit in their faces, RUN over them with your CARS”‘.

The video, which has had all credits removed, is of David Wood. It was recorded in March 28 2017 and edited in to a more recent video of his from October 31 2017. The text of his talk can be found on this blog. The text of the tweet, with no additional information, asserts in no uncertain terms that the incident in Melbourne was a Vehicular Jihad Attack. It promotes Muslims as terrorists.

The third Tweet says “Don’t you DARE act SHOCKED about Melbourne! Watch Jihadists openly call for the creation of an ‘All-Muslim Army’ to impose Sharia & overthrow the Australian Government!” It again uses an old and unrelated video. This time the message is that it isn’t just terror, but a threat of Muslims taking over the country, that they are a threat to “our way of life”.

Next is the first re-tweet which uses a clip from 7 News from December 14th 2017 about gangs of African youth causing trouble at St Kilda beach. The comment posted is ‘”Refugee” Enrichment in Australia. More than 200 African Jihadi Terrorists at a St Kilda beach, in the Muslim “No Go Zone” of Melbourne attacked & robbed kids, adults & stores. Father of teen who was brutally beaten: “They left him half-nude on the street” #FridayFeeling #RAIR’. This promotes common anti-Muslim narratives, but those narratives are not supported by the news video, nor are they relevant to the Flinder Street attack.

Let’s break this down. The tweet claims there were “African Jihadi Terrorists” at St Kilda beach. The news bulletin describes them as African youth and says they were fighting each other and robbing beach goers. That’s a long way from politically motivated terror attacks. It does on to describe St Kild beach as a “Muslim ‘no go zone'”. The idea of “no go zones” where Sharia rules and Police can’t go has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center ” the myth that just won’t quit”. As SPLC explain, it was originally spread about parts of France by Daniel Pipes in 2006, a claim he retracted and said he regretted making back in 2013. The news report in this case makes it clear this is anything but a no-go zone (Muslim or otherwise). It is described as a popular beach, Police attended the incident, and it was a one off occurrence. The only thread linking this to the previous posts is the idea of Jihad which has been inserted into both this post and the Flinders Street attack by the tweeter. “Amy” is seeking to create an impression of a clime in Australia, and specifically in Melbourne, which simply doesn’t exist.

The fifth tweet we have already discussed.

The sixth tweet explicitly carries on the message. It reads, “Sharia Australia… Islamic Leader from influential Muslim Org. (ASWJA) told girls at youth night they would go to HELL if they befriended non-Muslims. Stil shocked about #Melbourne?”

The seventh tweet reads, “Shame on the Australian Government! #Dhimmis. Will the #Melbourne Jihadi be sent to one of Australia’s many Sharia Courts!? Sharia courts continue to operate throughout Islamic Australia endorsing polygamous & underage marriages, wife beating, etc.. More coming shortly.” It uses video footage from a Today Tonight report which is at least 6 years old. It again claims the Flinders Street attack was Islamic terrorism then misrepresents Sharia law and claims it is taking over and overriding Australia law. This is nonsense. To learn about Sharia Law see this article from SBS.

Next we have Pauline Hanson being promoted with a video of one of her anti-Muslim speeches. The text calls her brave and the “Donald Trump of Australia!” Note again the continued use of the #Melbourne hashtag trying to insert this old Australian anti-Muslim speech into the discussion of the attack.

The ninth post promotes the idea that Islam promotes misogyny, another popular anti-Muslim trope. Again this is being inserted into the #Melbourne discussion.

 

Then we have a re-tweet of a post originally made as 6:52pm with pictures of the driver and the other man who was arrested (but who police now say in likely not involved) and the claim that they are likely called “Mohammed, Ahmed or Abdul” in other words that they are Muslim. It ends with the hastag “#NothingToDoWithIslam”. This tweet received over 655 re-tweets and 940 likes over the next 8.5 hours, further spreading a false narratives which is blaming Muslims collectively for the attack.

In the final tweet Amy plays the victim claiming Twitter will censor her because “Liberals and Jihadists HATE the truth…”.

Under Twitter’s new crack down on hate accounts which we discussed earlier in the week, this account should be closed. We call on Twitter to do so to prevent it being used to further flame the flames of hate and fear.

“Muslim terror attack” Spin on Twitter

At 8:54 pm Zippy News declared, “These Muslim monsters used their war cry of #AllahuAkbar as they tried to kill as many as possible. As yet no Muslim leader has condemned this terror. #Melbourne #IslamicTerrorism #Terror #AVeryMerryMuslimChristmas #Savages”. The claims that “Allahu Akbar” was shouted, multiple people were involved and they were Muslim, and that Muslim leaders had not condemned the attack are also complete fabrications.

 

There were people warning about the potential for racist attacks after an incident like this. While many shared that message, others like this message at 8:54 pm sought to undermine those concerns by advocating that people instead focus on the incident of “Islamic terror” and the threat of future “Islamic terror”. This sort of argument seeks to increase public fear. Just as groups like ISIS seek to promote a conflict between Muslims and the West,  so do the far-right who also advocate for such a clash.

By 1:03 am the next morning some were already claiming there was a conspiracy to cover it up. Phill tweeted, “The obvious terrorist attack in #Melbourne is already being covered up. The SAME thing happened in January on the same streets. Authorities all over the world are trying to hide Islamic terrorism for some reason. Watch how this one plays out…”


Muslim responses on Twitter

The  Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia

At 6:56 pm, the  Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Australia tweeted, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to victims of the horrific #Melbourne🇦🇺 attack. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Australia @AhmadiyyaAUS categorically rejects and condemns every form of terrorism. #PrayForMelbourne🇦🇺 #PrayForAustralia🇦🇺 #LoveForAllHatredForNone #Peace”.

At 8:29 pm they followed this up with a message saying “We are shocked to learn about the events in #FlindersStreet #Melbourne today. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the victims. We are on our way to the city in solidarity with our friends.”

At 8:46 pm they Tweeted, “Members of @AhmadiyyaAUS @AhmadiyyaVIC are heading to Melbourne🇦🇺 CBD to stand shoulder to shoulder with victims of this horrific attack. We will also be heading to hospitals & @RedCrossAU to give blood in this critical time. #PrayForMelbourne🇦🇺 #LoveForAllHatredForNone”

At 9:56 pm they Tweeted a picture with the message, ‘Our youth at #FlindersStreet standing against extremism and spreading the message of “Love for all, Hatred for none”‘.

At 7:24 am the next morning, Friday 22nd of December, they tweeted a link to a press release titled “Muslims condemn Flinders Street incident” saying in the Tweet “Muslim youth will be standing in solidarity with victims of #FlindersStreet in ##Melbourne and giving blood to @redcrossbloodau #LoveForAllHatredForNone”. The Tweet and press release feature a picture of the youth with a banner outside Flinders Street.

At 12:56 pm on Friday they shared a Tweet from their Brisbane chapter also condemning all forms of terrorism. It read, “We categorically rejects all forms of terrorism. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the #MelbourneAttack . We should all stand #UnitedAgainstExtremism #PrayForMelboure #PrayForAustralia #MuslimsForPeace #LoveForAllHatredForNone”

Muslims Down Under

At 7:38 pm an account called “Muslims Down Under” had condemned the attack saying “#Terror has no religion. Our thoughts & prayers go out to the victims, & those affected by the attack on #FlindersStreet, in #Melbourne CBD. We condemn all forms of extremism and denounce such heinous acts.”

Imam Mohammad A Hadi

At 8:12 pm Imam Mohammad A Hadi who runs the account @ImamDownUnder shared the Muslims Down Under tweet and added, “As an Imam I categorically condemn the attack on #FlindersStreet #Melbourne. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We must stand united against #Extremism”.

Waqas Ahmed

Waqas Ahmed tweeted at 10:33 pm, “This act of hate, cowardice and injustice at #FlindersStreet is inexcusable. My thoughts & prayers are with the victims & their families. I stand with #Melbourne. I stand for #PeaceOnEarth with #LoveForAllHatredForNone”.


The Australian far-right

While Facebook cleaned up many far-right pages back in May 2017, some avoided removal by carefully moderating what they post. These pages often selectively post news articles or present themselves as political groups. Their posts may have an underlying message and bias while still staying within Facebook’s rules. One problem with this is that while the page is careful of what it posts in order to avoid closure and the loss of its accumulated audience, the comments on the posts are seldom moderated to remove extremism the page admins agree with. The page admins themselves may incite such extremism by commenting using additional fake Facebook accounts they are happy to lose and replace. We repeat a recommendation we have previously made to Facebook:

Recommendations:

  • Facebook should require page admins to take responsibility for moderating comments on their page. Report made by other users should initially go to the page admin for review. Repeated failure to moderate content that breaches Facebook’s terms of service should see the rights to be an admin revoked.
  • Facebook should limit the ability to be a page admin to accounts that have existed for a reasonable period of time and made a reasonable number of posts. This is in order to prevent low effort fake accounts being used.

Blair Cottrell

The first Tweet from Blair Cottrell, a former leader of the far-right United Patriots Front, appeared at 5:27 pm. In it he writes “Someone just drove through a crowd of people near Flinders Street station. Looks like those tax-payer funded concrete blocks that were meant to stop this from happening were really worth it @DanielAndrewsMP”.

His next tweet is at 6:20 pm where he posts a picture of one of the men arrested saying tongue-in-cheek, “A shot of the driver who just mowed down at least 15 people near Flinders Street station in Melbourne. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions… He could be a ‘white nationalist’ 🙄”

At 7:13 pm he promotes the idea of the incident being a terrorist attack tweeting, “>Let terrorists into country cos diversity is our greatest strength >Spend people’s money putting concrete bollards on sidewalk to stop terrorists driving into said ppl >Terrorist just drives through people while they cross the road, defeating purpose of bollards @DanielAndrewsMP”. Adding at 7:19 pm he tweets “Hey Daniel, is diversity still our greatest strength? Or did you deliberately lie to us to secure campaign funding from corporate sponsors who told you to say that.” This argument, supposedly to the Premier of Victoria, seeks to undermine Victoria’s multicultural policy and stated values by suggesting these are not the values of the majority of the people, but rather something forced on them by big corporations and corruption. There’s a counter-factual element of alternative reality creeping in to Blair’s argument here.

 

At 7:52 pm he posts a screen capture from the Sydney Morning Herald about people asking witnessed to come forward telling people to ‘Read [as]: “Police have asked anybody who witnessed the terror attack to attend the local station for immediate ‘re-education’ and instructions on what to say to the media”.’  Already Blair is promoting the idea of a police cover-up.

At 8:02 pm Blair has caught up on the first Police briefing. He tweets, “A Victoria Police Rep just read from a piece of paper on television, admitted that the terror attack ‘was deliberate’ but then said the motive is unknown. Motive unknown? Are you f*cking kidding me.” Note that police did not describe it as a terror attack, that was editorial supplied by Blair. By 3:00 pm the next day this tweet has received 632 likes on Twitter.

At 8:22 pm Blair promotes a new myth. He tweets, “8-10 men reportedly pulled the two terrorists from the car and gave them a brief beating before police intervened and pushed the men back. That’s Australia for you. Despite all the Globalist-government has done to vilify masculinity, Aussie boys are still Aussie boys 🇦🇺”. There was a similar glorification of self help by the far right after the Bourke Street attack, in that instance it was focused on a man who attacked the car with a baseball bat before situation had escalated into vehicular attack on the public. In this instance later briefings from Victoria Police completely discredited this myth. There was only the driver in the car, not two men, and the person struggling with the driver was inf act an off duty police office.  By 3 pm the next day this tweet had received 927 re-tweets and around 2,700 likes.

 

At 9:08 pm Blair doubles down on his conspiracy theories tweeting, “To witnesses, I strongly recommend not relinquishing your photos/footage of the terror attack to police as they are requesting. Keep it, upload it, share it. The state government is trying to censor/control the information available on this attack. Don’t let them.”

At 9:29 pm, after the Police briefing, he tweets ‘Media & police are now saying the men were “mentally ill drug addicts”… Who just happen to be Muslim too but they leave that little detail out. Aussies don’t believe a word of this sh*t and won’t stand for it anymore.’ The Tweet moves from encourage non-cooperation with police to something bordering on incitement.

He continues in conspiracy mode with a tweet at 11:02 pm saying “Very interested to know exactly what was said to the witnesses of today’s carnage after they were lured to the local police headquarters immediately after the attack. That has never happened before. I’m sure all of Australia is interested too.”

And at 11:19 saying “Drugs have been a problem in this country since it became a country. But no drug addict has ever driven his car deliberately into a crowd of people because he was having a bad day –until now… 2 brown guys with beards, coincidently.”

The tweet which gets more attention, however, is at 11:37 pm with a bullet point counter narrative: ‘>One Afghani Muslim drives car into crowd of people at Flinders St. >A second Muslim films incident while carrying a backpack full of knives. >Both apprehended by citizens before the stabbings could begin. Police, politicians & media: “Drugs & mental illness is to blame!”’ By 5:41 pm on Friday this Tweet has been retweeted 1,900 times and liked 2,900 times.

His last tweet before retiring for the night at 1:07 am on Friday was to claim the conspiracy by the mainstream media the suppress the truth is keeping him up. He tweeted, ‘It’s past 1am in Melbourne and what’s keeping me awake is the fact that there are kids in hospital after being hit by that car, but the mendacious media is printing its lies in the morning newspapers right now. “Mental illness.” They’re almost running out of excuses. #Melbourne’

Friday morning he begins his day by playing the “Muslims are trying to take away Christmas” card with a tweet at 9:12am saying, “A government banner in north Melbourne, despite its ‘inclusivity’ by avoiding the word Christmas everywhere, it clearly didn’t prevent a ‘mentally ill’ Afghani from driving into a crowd of Christmas shoppers yesterday afternoon.”

At 12:56 pm he posted a picture of a white pride poster he claims was put up at the scene of the attack but removed by police within 30 minutes. An appeal for support from the more neo-Nazi (rather than “just” anti-Muslim) element of his support base.

At 3:14 pm Blair writes that two of his videos have been removed by Twitter and suggests be may be silenced on Twitter and will follow the rest fo the far right onto Gab. He tweeted “Twitter just logged me out and deleted two of my live feed videos on yesterday’s terror attack for ‘violating its community policy.’
I’m completely banned from Facebook too so if I disappear from here, find me on Instagram I suppose –until I get on Gab. 🇦🇺” He does raise a good question, why hasn’t Twitter banned him already?

In his most recent post at the time of writing, at 4:41 pm on Friday, he seems to be complaining about how much harder it is to live in his alternative reality rather than the real world, it;s so much easier because apparently those in the real world don’t have to constantly battle against facts. The tweet: “It must be real convenient to be a Leftist; a trendy anarchist or socialist, when all you ever have to do after an incident is share and defend mainstream media articles, because journalists, police officials and politicians do nothing but pump out the same sh*t you believe.”

Given Facebook banned Blair back in May, we do wonder why Twitter is allowing him to continue to use their platform even after their latest purge. Specially given Blair’s convictions for hate crimes and the fact that even he is surprised that he is still there. We call on Twitter to ban him and prevent him using their platform to promote his alternative reality filled with hate and fear.

Avi Yemini

Avi Yemini is a far right activist the media has been giving some attention to over the last few years. He runs a self defense business and has been drumming up concerns about public safety.

On December 21st at 5:20 pm Avi makes his first post about the incident. His post says “Not good” and links to a story from The Age titled “‘It just mowed everybody down’: Pedestrians hit by SUV in Melbourne CBD”. His post receives 1,200 likes and 334 shares.

At 6:47 pm Avi posts “Islam strikes again. This time in my home city of Melbourne. Wake the hell up folks. #religonofterror” The post receives 1,700 likes and 416 shares.

At 7:39 pm Avi posted a video of himself with the comment “Following today’s attack in my home town, there’s no way I can pass on my trip to the front line in the war on Islamic terror. So, off I go. To support: [address redacted]”. The post included a fund raising link. In the video Avi says he takes the attack as a sign and that he is in the back of a taxi on his way to Melbourne airport and “the front line of Islam Terror”. He went on to say, “what happened today in Melbourne is an Islamic terror attack just as has been happening for the last 60, 70 whatever it is years in Israel”. He thanked his supporters who had previously covered one third of his travel costs and said he was putting everything else on his credit card as he pushed people to donate more. HE continues “Islamic terrorists hit us close to home, and I’m going to bring you to the forefront of it”. It was liked 1,200 times and shared 94 times.

At 8pm Avi posted “Victoria Police say it was a ‘deliberate act’ but ‘haven’t established a motive yet’. I think I can help. #religionofpeace 🙄🙄”. The post received 806 likes and 34 shares.

 

At 9:52 pm Avi broad cast his response to the press conference. In part of his commentary he said, “It’s Islamic Terror mate, just spit it out. Aussie’s deserve to know… predictably disappointing that press conference was, a bunch of no answers”. He either missed the Acting Commissioner of Police who gave plenty of details, as outlined above, or dismissed them for not fitting his pre-conceived narrative. Despite having almost no details, the post received 1,300 likes and 254 shares.

Comments on this video included:

  • “Muslim cunts”
  • “Fuck the Muslim scum”
  • “we all know it was muzrats”
  • “Another ‘Car of Peace’ … just driving over pedestrians in Melbourne.”
  • “Another inbred Muslim”
  • “Fuck all you Muslim scum”
  • “Mohamed the paedophile Muslim maggots”
  • “cultural enrichment”
  • “Fuck these dirty terrorist cunts we need to unite and put a stop to this”
  • “These people are a different species of human and have no place in our society. Muslim Muslim Muslim 😠😠😠”
  • “hey, they will never admit their precious muslims do it coz god forbid, they get way to much money from the arab countries to care who kills us”
  • “Mental illness called Islam !!”
  • “God bless you Avi..😍 TRUTH HURTS! ..another TERRORIST ATTACK in Melbourne…shame!!!..smho”
  • “Shh, don’t mention Islam” as the text of a meme with a picture of the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews
  • ” Evil Islam and the BS of the false god, prophet, mongrel, Mohammad and Allah. Evil bastards all.”
  • “Don’t they all have mental illnesses?”
  • “Daniel Andrews, the terrorist enabler!!!!”
  • “It’s all ok, he is mental and a drug user, not an Afgan immigrant or should I say Islamist, probably never stepped a foot into a Mosque in his entire life.”
  • “give our guns back, this shit would never get started. fuck the government narrative of war on terror.”
  • “He is an Islamist, not mental”
  • “It’s time Andrews and the police stopped covering up terrorist attacks, do they think we are all stupid”
  • “Muslim jihad murder of infidels”
  • Sooo disrespectful to everyday Aussies by lying to thr public. Yes…..another terrorist attack!!!!”
  • Made me sixk. Putring up permanently bollards to prorect citizens. Ian,t it an easier and cheaper solution to ban all muslims from our country. Piss weak. No respect for our government”
  • “Andrews he is a coward & scumbag, now the bullshit his bullshit is on the tv, Andrew, get your fucking right, he’s from Afghanistan & he’s a muslim, his partner in crime, was videoing the whole scene, & they found according to the news, he was carrying 3 knives,”
  • “Exactly ! it’s more fucking terrorist attacks by Muslim immigrants! Send them to prison in their country of origin and send their families back too it’s the only way this shit will stop or it will continue year after year until we are in a war zone !!!”
  • “Absolutely disgusting mate they don’t have any balls there so scared to admit it’s an act of terrorism. Gutless cunt”
  • “We know who is doing this. We know where their motivation is coming from. There is a common thread running through it.
    Bloody Islam. We don’t have Catholics driving their cars into innocent people. We don’t have Jews killing people like this. It’s Islam. We need to eliminate every trace of this vile prehistoric cult from the world. It is the only way we are ever going to be really safe. The governments of all countries have to stop side stepping around this and attack it front on wherever it surfaces.”
  • “The government knew that there is going to be more terrorist and crime. The police have now been given semi automatic guns. That’s saying something but not tell the public the truth.”
  • “Sure is. Sickly. The Victorian government is suffering a new kind of mental health issue called denial.”
  • “Deport all who follow this evil ideology I say”
  • “ame here. Fucking VIC STATE becomming a Muslim Callifate. Andrews is nameing me sick. AGAIN! Fucking has mental health. Will get off because poor BARSTARDS have it bad here in Australia. 90 people hurt. Typical GOVERMWNT…NOT GOVERNING.”
  • “Cunt was an Afghan Muslim but nothing to do with terrorism. The other cunt arrested had three knives on him. Get fucked Andrews. You need to be flogged.”
  • “Tell us who has done this ffs mental illness is Islam 😡😡💯🖕🇦🇺🇦🇺”
  • “Apparently – unless the Offender is holding a sign that says ‘This is an act of Terrorism’ – then it is only a mental health issue…. 😡”
  • “Of course mentally ill, of course Muslims”
  • “Yes he might be a addict which is not allowed in islam.. but if he martyred himself for islam he is forgiven by his false god and still gets his 72 virgins. That’s why he did it, to appease his false god so he is forgiven for his sins! I hope he gets what is coming to him inside prison!”
  • “Find out which mosque he goes to and bulldoze it.”
  • “HOW CAN THOSE TWO SLEEP AT NIGHT???? IT WAS ISLAMIC JIHAD TERRORISM ..plain and simple ..traitorous appeasing SCUM 😡😡”
  • “incident?? incident?? My sister just asked me yesterday why I diid not allow my daughters to visit the CBD… why I did not let them visit the Myer Window? I said that the CBD was a giant target to the religion of peace. Racist? or just realistic? Just ask my daughters friend whose mother and sister are in the Royal Childrens Hospital right now!” (This appears to be from a brand new fake profile, so it’s unlikely the story is true)
  • “Andrews is a lying piece of rubbish. Two men with mental health issues in the one car. Just amazing!!”
  • “Mental health issues = islam! STOP ALL middle eastern immigration NOW!”
  • “Police say it was a deliberate act, but as yet don’t know the motivation! Well, WE do! Terrorism!!”
  • “deport all moslems now the only way we will be safe”
  • “Dan Andrews’ terrorists concrete bollards failed. Dump Labor & their terrorists voters. DAN ANDREWS NEEDS TO BE KICKED OUT. People should take their protest to Dan’s office. No doubt the lefties who support the terrorists will come out supporting muslim violence.”
  • “Mental health drugs he will get off . The alarms are for muslims to call for prayer”
  • “The government has to Stop importing terror”
  • “Nothing happens by accident. It was a planned terror attack. The imbecilic that are running or ruining out country are chosen for this purpose. They spring up from no where like Obummer did then drive the country into the ground. They are only acting for the real people who run the world, the bankers (Rothschild) etc. The white race is being exterminated because we cannot be controlled anymore (unless you belong to ANTIFA or man hating lesbians) the agenda seems to be to weaken white males to such an extent we will not fight back and anyone who does is named and shamed as a ‘waycist’ by the media and hounded to death like Bill Leak was/”
  • “They said he was an Afghani and that the attack was deliberate. But not terrorism 🤔”
  • “Call it what it is terrorism at its grass roots evil yes but still terrorism!!!!”
  • “How many more deranged Islamists are driving around with an accomplice armed with knives? Lots me thinks!”
  • “There were TWO of them in the SUV! So whats the chances of TWO people with ‘mental illness’ involved in this?!!”
  • “All Muslims need to be put down”
  • “Daniel Andrews should be charged with covering up terrorism”
  • “My question is why do our politicians keep protecting Muslims when they commit these crimes. Start deporting all enemies on the watch list. Prevent another attack before more innocent people are injured or killed.”
  • “Yet another with a ‘mental problem’ recruited to carry out an act of terrorism!
    “Not a terrorist attack” ???? …. rubbish!!!! Just wait and you will see the links being uncovered.
    Muslim terrorists plan covert acts like this so they aren’t blamed DIRECTLY! They are probably sitting back laughing at all the silly politicians/media/etc. following their plan and blaming it all on “a man with a mental problem”!!!!”

Abusive comments directed against Avi, around half are from a single person, included:

  • “Your a Zionist pig”
  • “Your full of shit you scumbag”
  • “Hope you get knocked out by a rock from some little Palestinian kid”
  • “Are you going to attack commonwealth troops like in 1948 again scab”
  • “Hope your plane falls down”
  • “Zionism the ideology of terror”
  • “@avi yemmini is the biggest hypocrite/ dickhead / spinner/ terrorist. Dickhead you are so dedicated to use the word Islamic terror .  Let’s call you Jewish terrorist”
  • “THE WHOLE WORLD HAS VOTED AGAINST YOUR SHITTY ISRAELI ZIONIST AGENDA FUCK OFF AVI. YOU LAND SQUATTING PRICK HAHAHAHAHAHA”
  • “Israel biggest terrorists in the world”
  • “you just want so much intention .lol Jews terrorist number one in history you wish bring us picture of the children’s you killing and show us the crippled Palestine your idf terrorist they shoot in the head for carrying a Palestinian flag you terrorist will never be forgiven belive me”
  • “Avi your a Mossad agent. Your not Australian. Fuck off you spy!!! Stay in Israhell”
  • “Where will you be celebrating Christmas? Oh you hate Jesus and Zionist convinced the Romans to kill him lol.  Fucken Zionist filth” (This posts shows “Zionist” being used to mean Jews as Zionism itself didn’t exist until 1897, further, it is a use of the antisemitic charge of deicide)

On December 27th at 6:05 pm he posted a picture of a a police SWAT team captioned “Mental Illness Response Team”. His comment was “Our new mental health plan”. The post received 2,800 likes and 669 shares.

On December 30th at 9:33 am he linked to an article about the death of Antonios Crocaris adding, “Let me re-write the title for the Herald Sun; ‘Hero’ Australian killed by an ISLAMIC terror attack on Flinders St. We must start calling it what it is! #religionofpeace”. By January 2nd the post had 1,800 likes and 346 shares.

Comments include:

“Why is not this bloody media showing the truth! We know, i know , everybody know it’s a deliberately terrorist attack and that bastard accept. So why this fake media is not showing the truth!” at 9:48 pm with 39 likes. A reply at 9:58 am that received 12 likes said “Media cartel is payed well to omit the truth. They tell us what they want us to hear, show us what they want us to see. Changing people perceptions, lie & confuse, to create divisions for easier control. We must help those that will awake, they will be in shock.” A further reply at 10:34 am received 6 likes, it said, “It’s called ‘FAKE NEWS’ my friend.” A final reply at 11:53 am received 4 likes and added “They are not showing the truth because they are afraid!!”.

“Walks like a duck quacks like a duck looks like a duck its a fucking duck…A islamic duck” at 9:55 am, liked by 13.

“Sad. Muslims again no surprise there.” also at 9:55 am, no likes.

“Countrymen (and women) need to protect their home fronts at all costs. These politician’s are too PC. Safety is left to the commoners…personally I am ready to protect my family. Bear arms now.” at 9:59 am, liked by 9.

“Mental illness my ass, it’s a fucking Islamic terrorism! Andrews government working against Victorians by refusing to admit the facts!” at 10:01 am, no likes.

At 10:04 am someone calls Avi out writing, “Fuck off Avi. You are naive and a bigot. This has nothing to do with religion . It is simply someone with a mental illness. Blame the government for not supplying a sufficient mental health system. Stop your bullshit!” At 3:49 pm another user replied “Stuart Walters if you believe that you are a moron, this filthy piece of crap is using any excuse that he can get excepted to avoid responsibility for his actions.” The original poster replied at 7:32 pm, “[name redacted] unfortunately it is the truth. So get over it!”. None of these posts received any likes.

“We now have terrorist attacks here. We have bollards erected in places that didn’t have them. We have increased police presence. We have emergency sirens in place. Trucks will be parking in the city to protect people on New Year’s eve. ALL of this is because of ISLAM! This is ALL because of Islamic terror. Not Buddhist, not Hindu, not Jew or any other religion. And our governments call this getting used to the ‘new normal’. This is NOT normal and never should be. This is what Islam brings to every western country it goes to. And our politicians and police refuse to call it for what it is because they might ‘offend’ them!! FUCK THEM! We have ISLAM to thank for all of this shit! ISLAM! And now Islam to blame for the loss of this poor old man. This is SO sad and was totally unnecessary! R.I.P. you Australian hero. You deserved so much better than to go like this. Condolences to your family. But we need to NEVER loose sight of what is causing all these things to happen in our country – Islam! Again, and again, and again! Throw them all out or ban the cult but deal with it. Ignoring this menace will not see it go away. It will only get worse and worse! This cancer needs to be cut out!” at 10:12 am with 1 like.

“This is sad , however I posted the below comment on the ABC’s feed (All I can say is victoria voted them in ! Maybe the people need to stand for the people . I haven’t been in victoria long but it seems to be turning to crap. Once a great state is now dictated by minority groups and thugs instead of for the greater good .) And got comments black saying go back to where I came from , I don’t know anything and stop being political. We have spineless officials but they are being elected by soft headed wankers that won’t face reality.” at 10:13 am with 70 likes.

“Alleged??! Wtf, it was done in front of hundreds of people and caught on camera! When are we going to confront the fact that Islam is absolutely screwing Australia. It offers nothing to society. Nothing. Ban the cult.” at 10:18 am with 93 likes.

“There is two things that have to happen. 1 a total ban on Islam, no mosques as they preach hatred, no burkas due to security risks with a hidden face, halal regulated by government department, no Sharia ever and a clump down on welfare payments. 2 Death penalty for terrorist activities, if you plan or partake in an terrorist event then you will be put to death then cremated and ashes dumped at the nearest garbage bump and their families should be removed from this country and if they have children born here their rights as Australians stripped. These people are invaders not legitimate migrants or refugees stop believing the lefty B.S.!” at 10:47 am, no likes.

“Hi Avi…I think you need to spread peace instead of try and destroy nations what do you mean by ‘ ban the clan ‘. Don’t generalize. People who perform acts of terror are called ‘ terrorists’ The media is trying to make Muslims appear as terrorists and I can see what you too are trying to do. All the following religions and faiths ban acts of terror: Judism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and more! So let’s spread the peace and fight the terror together as a civilized nation. Without knowing your age… I think you need to read more into what Islam is about cause ya Muslims understand very clearly what people from Jewish backgrounds are trying to portray about Muslims.” at 10:57, no likes. The end of this comment is unfortunate as it accepts Avi’s premise that he represents the Jewish community, something which is strongly rejected by all Jewish communal organisations.

“Drown them all in pigs blood fuck pislam it should not be allowed in Australia I would not hesitate to gutter stomp there Fuckin heads in if you don’t like our values you shouldn’t even breath our air inbred peto cunts. RIP OLD MATE and pray for a speedy recovery for the other victims of pislam” at 11:14 am, no likes.

“My deepest thoughts are for this gentleman and his family! When is enough is enough! The so called Vic government borrowed theories of anti terrorist practices has failed. We should know how this Islamist killer was allowed in our country! The poor family should have the full support of our country and sue the hell out of the fed and state governments for failure to protect the innocent by all means!! They failed and probably will fail again!” at 11:15 am with 42 likes.

“A horribly surprising and violent end perpetrated by a Catholic no wait somebody said he ( the assailant ) is moslem which means that membership gives them the right to lie and deceive non CULT members hence the excuses of drug use and dependency in order to mitigate the seriousness of this heinous crime” at 11:25 am, no likes.

“I’m sick and tired of the evasion of the truth. This WAS a terror attack by an adherent to the RELIGION OF PEACE. When are we going to be allowed to tell the truth?” at 11:46 am, 5 likes.

“When will they face the truth, I don’t care what your ideology is, but if you intentionally go out to attack any unknown person’s with the intention of creating mayhem with injury and/or death, then your intent is to create “Terror” and hence it is “Terrorism”. Then throw in we are at war with Isis which is built on the ideology of Muslim belief and the words of the Koran, then this piece of crap, as a person of this country has carried out an act of Treason and should be treated as such and is now a War Criminal.” at 11:49 am, no likes.

“This is why we the people will start to take the law in our own hands and deliver the justice.” at 11:52 am, 1 like.

“Screw Islam and ALL those that practice this BS religion. Deport the lot on leaky boats.” at 11:58 am, no likes.

“This innocent man died as a result of a terrorist act. If you don’t believe me, check out the definition of a ‘terrorist act’ as defined by the Australian Governments Attorney General’s Department…..it’s all there! Feel so sorry for this family who have had this man taken away from them by an evil individual all in the name of an evil ideology.” at 12:00 pm with 11 likes.

” Cowering cowardly pollies. What are you going to do with the murder. Little slap on the wrist and send him out into our community to kill more aussies. We need to rally around Pauline Hanson. One Nation. One law. No mosques, no sharia, no muslims” at 12:10 pm , no likes.

“[name redacted] There is good and bad in all countries, in all races. Muslims are radically different. They are evil in masses. They have a very low IQ due to their belief in incest. We are not dealing with people with an inner moral guage. We are at war. Open your eyes. Get on you tube and listen to their propagander. Their plan is to infiltrate and dominate the world . People like you are ignorant to their horrific culture of marrying little girls as young as 4 and horrifically rapping then on their weddi g night. Surely you can,t support this. Get informed before you make silly comments” at 12:27 pm , no likes. By the same poster as the post at 12:10 pm.

A third post by the same person at 12:37 pm with 1 like reads, “I call on vigilante groups to protect us. Police have their hands tied so it,s up to our courageous men of Australia to protect their families from the pestilence that calls themselves peaceful muslims. No mosques, no sharia, no muslims.” Another poster replied at 1:40 pm, “Excise the cancer that is islam.”

“This “alleged” attack on this innocent man who was just going about his business and not hurting anyone was inspired by the perpetrator’s ideology pure and simple. The “mental illness” excuse or the “under the influence of drugs” excuse does not cut it with me!!! An individual still knows right from wrong or you’d be hearing of a lot more incidents involving the mentally ill. It needs to be stated for what it is and something needs to be done. If immigrants can not abide by our laws deportation needs to be put forth as an option.” 1:00 pm, no likes.

“He is a Muslim he will get a slap on the wrist as usual. The laws are there but the judiciary does not apply them” at 1:33 pm, no likes.

“To think you live your life as a good citizen and die from a terrorist attack in beautiful Australia… Yes we MUST CALL IT WHAT IT IS!!!!!” at 1:43 pm, with 5 likes.

At 1:54 pm a meme with a picture of David Attenborough and some text was posted, it received no likes. The text which is presented a quote from David Attenborough made on July 21, 2014 reads “I am unaware of any animal that is as cruel as Israelis — not even crocodiles. They bomb schools, hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages, UN feeding stations, water works, power plants, ambulances, kids playing on the beach. They put millions of people in a siege. They shoot children going to school. They kidnap kids and harvest their organs. They inject prisoners with disease pathogens before releasing them. They murder by land sea and air. And worst of all, they slander their defenceless victims as ‘terrorists’.” The quote is a fake as exposed by the Toxic Drums blog. The blog trace the appearance of the attributed version of the quote to the Press TV website where it was posted as a comment by a user who had entered their name as “David Attenboroug”.  Press TV itself is an English language news service of the Iranian government and is widely viewed as a public diplomacy / propaganda outfit for the Iranian regime.

The posting of this meme with a fake quote which makes well known and false accusation, including the modern antisemitism blood libel about organ harvesting, is an attempt by the poster to use their own bigotry to hit back at Avi.

“RIP 😢 To his family always remember your loved one was taken by a Islamic terrorist attack and our government allows it” at 2:04 pm, no likes.

At 2:11 pm a old meme saying “Islam, not a religion! It’s the world’s largest death cult” was posted. We first documented this member back in 2013 and it is disappointing to see it still in use. It received no likes.

“THIS IS THE RESULT OF ACCEPTING MUSLIMS, YES MUSLIMS: PEOPLE DIE. OUR PEOPLE, OUR FELLOW CITIZENS DIE BECAUSE SOME MORONS ACCEPTED THEM IN OUR CHRISTIANS LANDS. UNRELIABLE THAT PEOPLE PUT 7 CENTURY RETARDS BEFORE THEIR OWN PEOPLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at 3:02 pm, no likes.

“That’s ridiculous “alleged”. It is was it is a terrorist attack by a MUSLIM… the Media the Government and the Authorities will sugarcoat everytime” at 3:08 pm, no likes.

“Hate those muslims cunts. Ban muslin here” at 3:20 pm, no likes.

“Yes, despite the excuses, it was terrorism. For someone with mental issues he certainly knew how to plan and time his attack. Muslims have been inbred for thousands of generations, as it is permitted in their cult, so most will have mental issues, and drug addiction is self inflicted and should receive no sympathy.” at 8:39 pm, no likes.

““Alleged” attack..??!! It happened didn’t it – it was an attack – and by a muslim idiot ranting about islam… Can we please get real and call this for what it is – the extreme end of islam doing what the koran calls for…!!!” at 8:57 pm, no likes. It should be notes that there is no evidence the driver was saying anything at the time of the attack, this is part of the misinformation that has been spread in social media.

“This is so bad thoughts go out to the family of this innocent man .This so called government have a hell of a lot to be accountable for ,they are wholly responsible for these events ,you have the Africans causing riots then the Muslims doing these type of things my god it is just so wrong . I have a cousin who has lived in Victoria all her life and she told me that it is so scary down there now ,so I would suggest this government get of their arses and start doing something about it and it has been said by a lot of people here in NEW South Wales. That there is going to end up being a civil war and really I think that is in the cards .You know the sad thing is that all our forefathers fought for this country and it has taken such a corrupt government to sell Australia out and just absolutely ruin it .” at 9:06 pm, no likes.

“This is the time to take it to Spring Street , take our anger on the streets of Melbourne in protest that this is enough , enough of lies , enough deciet,
Fed up of being violated and bashed , Fed up of our county appeasing the likings of a Islamic fuckin undesirables ” at 11:33 pm, no likes.

“Zionist dog” at 11:49 pm, no likes. This is another attempt at a personal attack on Avi. As with the other posts attacking Israel / Zionists shown above, this post also was from a Muslim. Avi’s attack on the Muslim community is leading to more general anti-Jewish sentiment in the Muslim community, or at least expressions of such sentiment directed against Avi.

“Stop trying to use this tragic event to advance your own Jewish Agenda against Muslims, I have no time for them or your kind either, especially your type who use other people tragedies to push there own agenda” at 1:07 am on December 31st, no likes.

 

.

Reclaim Australia Rally

Reclaim Australia Rally (page ID 1499825823571529) is the largest of the far-right Australian pages on Facebook with 90,178 likes. At 5:21 pm, 40 minutes after the attack, they released their first post (post ID 1968293240058116) on the incident. In all capitals it declares “*BREAKING NEWS* MELBOURNE FLINDERS STREET A CAR HAS PLOUGHED INTO PEDESTRIANS!” and links to a news story from the UK’s Daily Mail.

 

A comment made at 5:48 pm says “Terrorist attack”.

At 7:04 pm a supporter comments, “Australians need to declare war on Islam and all the scum who follow or support the criminal cult”. A reply to that comment from another supporter of the page replies at 8:14 pm, “My husband and I were v close to this attack today.. I am so livid,I believe in an eye for an eye. Sick of this soft crap for these evil people. Every muslim now needs to be under surveillance and every mosque.. If they aren’t doing wrong, then they have no need to worry.. Our intelligence can’t get them all as they enlist new people to do it all the time.They have already said the 2 filthy scum in this were not ‘ on their radar’..Well of course not.. The govs have let so many of these people come here.” The second person then adds at 8:16 pm, “More than anything. I am sick of our own people who defend these people.. i am so sick of traitors..”.

At 8:50 pm another supporter writes, “Surely not the religion of peace 😠”.

The same post was made again seconds later (post ID 1968293263391447). The second post had by 2:00 pm on Saturday December 23rd received 502 responses and 167 shares as well as 170 comments. The double post appears to have been accidental.

Comments on the second post include:

“Here we go again”, posted at 5:29 pm and receiving 20 likes.

“Shall we wait for it? Shall we preempt the outcome? Should we speculate on any excuses given? Will we take a wager on the outcome? Bets on the government will hold steadfast to their immigration policies?” posted at 5:31 pm and receiving 34 likes.

“Another mental Muslim?” posted at 5:37 pm and receiving 2 likes.

“Imagine our world where no Muslims lived in the west, only in Muslim countries, how much our governments would save just on security alone, and how much more peaceful our lives would be.” Posted at 5:43 pm and receiving 23 likes.

“Stop letting the scum in and let the public shoot the oxygen thieves on site then there’s no more problems” also posted at 5:43 pm, receiving 7 likes.

A meme posted at 5:46 pm says “I bet it was a Muslim”. It received 14 likes.

“Didn’t Islam warn what was coming , yes they did….in my point of view all muslims are terrorists. ..” at 5:51 pm, receiving 1 like.

” Islamic terrorism until proven….” at 5:34 pm with a reply at 6:04 pm, “Yeah they’ll probably do what they did in America wont let it out of the bag”. The initial comment received 11 likes.

“Agenda21 civil war soon wake up don’t blame our government they are doing as they are told by the elites” at 5:40 pm and received 42 likes.  At 7:40 pm someone replies, “We are all ruled by the U N”. Another reply at 8:20 pm says “We are not ruled by the U. N at all they are just another pawn for the worlds 5 elite families.. But I guess you can’t put brains into statues now can you…”.

“Did the warning sirens go off? I bet not. This is going to happen more and more. We all know it won’t be treated as a terrorist attack just someone with mental problems. 😡” at 5:56 pm with a reply at 7:47 pm saying “If it was a muslim driving, it won’t be a terrorist attack”. The initial comment received 11 likes.

“Time is now fellow Aussie’s are we going to sit back or eradicate 😡😡😡” at 6:33 pm and receiving 12 likes.

“Be out on bail tomorrow, slap on the wrist by the judge, set free , to live off our taxes……I’ll bet on that!😡🤬🤬🤬” at 6:43 pm receiving 5 likes.

“If they say mental illness to make the government save face because they are importing the problem, I’m going to be really mad 😡
The police said it’s A man of middle eastern appearance who did it deliberately. But they aren’t sure of the motivation apparently” at 7:07 pm and receiving 10 likes.

“Time to take them out” at 8:22 pm

“This is such a Tragedy. Yet this is just the beggining with no end. The first man known to police with drug issues and with mental health. And what a laugh as the police beleive the second man involved who was the passenger and had a bag of 3 knives was not linked to this incident? WTF is going on with our Government, Judicial System and Policing! Soon we will be taking the law into our own hands to protect ourselves.” 10:55 pm with 5 likes.

At 5:38 pm Reclaim Australia posted a third time on the incident. This time the post had the message, “Witnesses claim a white SUV intentionally sped up and mowed down pedestrians!”. The post was like 358 times and shared 134 times by 5:30 pm on Saturday 23rd of December.

Comments included:

“Dickhead Dan…..hope this spoils your Christmas. You are a low life piece of shit, how can you live with yourself? You get to spend Christmas with your family, others will not be so fortunate as some bastard has intentionally run them down today. Shame it wasn’t you or your family in his way.” at 5:52 pm with 14 likes. As with a number of other comments, Dan here refers to the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews. This attack on him and his family, as he is trying to deal with a crisis, in our view crosses the line and despite being political in nature, moves outside of “political communication” and into hate speech.

“And did this have anything to do with that loving ideology of peace???? 😡😡😡” at 6:19 pm with 1 like, “Named Mohammad by any chance?” at 6:21 pm with 4 likes, “Need to bring back the death penality, not that they would mind going to meet the virgins waiting for them haa haa.” at 6:21 pm with 6 likes.

“Ahhhh yes the good old religion of peace strikes again. But apparently we must learn to coexist and not pass judgment because we are racist if we do” at 6:45 pm receiving 5 likes.

“Time for these low life scum gutless pricks to be sent home along with their entire family, and time for Australia to start looking out for Australia and leave some sort of life for our children 😡😡😡” at 8:22 pm receiving 1 like.

“stupid government enticed them by placing bollards and sirens up…civil war is coming agsinst the blacks and muslims…well done australuan givermment…as turdbullshit says we must embrace on coming vehicles” at 9:22 pm and received 1 like.

“Ban muzzies from driving or ban Islam. Or maybe the police could use those new military style weapons as in pull the dam trigger.” at 9:28 pm and received 1 like.

“They are trying to blame mental health issues on the 32 year old Afghan, well they should arrest the whole Afghan community as they are on Disability support pensions and used mental healrh as an excuse to rort the system, round em up and deport them. Numan Haider who stabbed the police in Endeavour hills was Afghan” at 10:01 pm receiving 4 likes.

“The government disarmed the people, so they can’t defend themselves or thier family. Then they bring in muslims who WANT to kill non muslims. Maybe its time to exam who the real enemy is, and PURGE THEM BY WHAT EVER MEANS NECESSARY.” at 3:15 pm on Friday Dec 22nd.

 

At 8:06 pm Reclaim Australia made a 4th post on the incident and the first where the page itself gave commentary rather than simply sharing a news article. To  avoid the page being closed by Facebook, Reclaim Australia had for some time been sharing the content of others, usually news articles, rather than posting any original commentary. In this way any claim of incitement could be dodged by blaming either the original source that was shared, or the page’s supporters who used those posts as a gathering blame to share their hate. This new post at 8:06 pm was a sharp departure from this “safety strategy” the page had been employing for months.

The post was in the style of a meme. The picture was of one of the men arrested at the scene. The top text reads, “And the official report will read 1) Nothing to do with Islam and 2) There is a history of mental illness”. The bottom text, used for the punchline in a meme, reads: “We agree with number 2, there is a 1400 year history of mental illness”. The meme promotes the idea of a government / media conspiracy, while also attacking Islam as a whole by calling it a mental illness. 1400 years is the entire history of Islam. By 11:38 pm on Saturday December 23rd this posting of this meme has been liked 1400 times and shared 884 times. It appear to originate with this page.

The more direct attack on Islam emboldened supporters. The comments this time around were far stronger and more direct. The meme incited hate and some of that hate was expressed in the form of incitement to violence.

Comments posted in reply included:

“Do we have names of the perpetrators yet? What area their families live in? Which mosque they go to? The public has a right to know” at 8:08 pm with 17 likes.

“well it is time for a payback, enough is enough” at 8:09 pm receiving 28 likes. A reply at 8:17 reads, “If you do, you will be a racist bigot and will be punished more than this maggot.” and received 7 likes. Another reply at 8:22 pm says, “Anyone know where I can get a 2 tonne truck & the directions to Lakemba high Street?” and received 6 likes.

“Another atrocity brought to you by the cult of PEACE AND LOVE & CULTURAL ENRICHMENT” at 8:13 pm receiving 11 likes.

“1400 years of inbreeding lowers the IQ” also at 8:13 with 4 likes.

“How much more do you want.” An image included in the post reads, “The path of Islam is always the same 1. Establish a Mosque, 2. Create an enclave, 3. Grow the population, 4. Claim victimhood, 5. Resists host authorities and customs, 6. Exploit lawfare, 7. Institute Sharia, 8. Secede, 9. Take control”.

“About time WE the PEOPLE took our peacefully,loving,caring,PRouD Country BACK!!!!!  FK OFF … Apex, mts, Islam/Muslims etc… 🔫🔫🔫🔥🔥🔥💣💣💣💥💥💥🐷🐖🐷🐖🐷” at 8:22 pm receiving 3 likes. The post includes guns, flames, bombs and explosions.

“We can thank the government for letting all these parasites into our country” at 8:24 pm.

“Well a bullet will fix it” at 8:25 pm with 2 likes.

 

“islime is an antiquated ideology of a murderous sex slave moron. We need to to follow antiquated punishments just for these pathetic islamic filth. WHIP them like convicts were. 1000 lashes with a cat o nine tails, as a deterent and education for these “mentally ill” uncivil, un modern, unbelievably moronic scum human grubs.. MURDER IS NOT a civil modern educated societies` answer to a 1600 yr old filthy ideology of HATRED!!!” at 8:23 pm and received one like.

 

“I know what i am doing when i know my numbers allmost up.” at 8:28 pm. A comment at 8:36 pm reads, “Ditto 👍🏻😊 suicide bomb the lot of them”. Another reply at 8:42 pm says “Yep” and received a like.

“Hey musrats be careful crossing the road from now on” at 8:51 pm

“Been saying it for ages. Let them gather for one of their rallies or what ever. Throw them some flaming cocktails. Kick back an watch the show” at 8:55 pm with 1 like.

“Not only does this fuckwhits have a mental problem but also the judges and lawyers that shall say that he is too unstable to face court, the bloody lot need to be exterminated.” at 9:52 pm

“shoot the fukkers!!!” at 11:14 pm

” Australian is at War or they will or we sit back and allow Moslems too pick us off indiscriminately, while these governments sit back and watch , and do nothing. 👎🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷” on Friday December 22nd at 6:58 am.

“all moslems are mentaly ill you have to be to believe its ok to rape children to murder anyone that doesnt believe the same as them doesnt matter if they are your friendly nieghbour with a smile or workmate they are all the same behind your back and will turn at any time and kill you” on Friday December 22nd at 7:04 am.

“The government disarmed the people, so they can not defend themselves or thier family. Then bring in muslims who WANT to kill non muslims. Maybe its time to exam who the real enemy is, and PURGE THEM, BY EVER MEANS NECESSARY.” Friday December 22nd at 3:01 pm. This same comment, by the same poster, was then copied to an earlier thread (as documented above).

On December 30th, after news broke of the death of 83 year old Antonios Crocaris, Reclaim Australia posted a call to action.  The post links to a video from Nine News, but also includes text which restates the claim that the attack was Muslim terrorism, accuses the media and politicians of treason, says they are renewing inter-group coordination among the far right and calls for a renewal of anti-Muslim rallies in 2018. The text reads: “Thoughts and prayers go out to the family of this innocent man senselessly murdered by a jihadi monster but our rally cry is going out to Australia! What do you think patriots? Are we going to continue standing for this rubbish? Are we going to allow our treasonous media and politicians to continue to treat us like idiots by claiming obvious Islamic atrocities are “mental illness” or due to a “history of drug problems”? We are in the process of liasing with other patriot groups to potentially organise another nationwide set of rallies as we did in 2015. You’re thoughts are welcome.” By January 2nd the post had received 913 likes and 64 shares.

Selected comments on this post include:

“Rampage? That was a terrorist attack!!” at 3:15 pm with 24 likes.

“Why is this terrorist still breathing” at 3:19 pm with 10 likes.

“id only go if only australian flags are flown… im not a white nationalist, they have a right to their beliefs but then the whole event becomes tainted by the media as racist if white nationalist flags are flown about, and i for one am not a racist, how could i go to any kind of rally where brown people like me are not welcome by others just becuase of my skin tone.” at 3:21 pm with 1 like.

This post highlights the challenge the far right faces in multicultural Australia. While there messaging to isolate Muslims and claim they are somehow different and a legitimate target even for those who believe in multiculturalism seems to be working on some Australians, any links with white supremacists undermines this effort. As most overseas far right groups are linked with white supremacy, and many of the overseas messages they produce are repeated by Australian groups, this places the leadership of the Australian far-right in an awkward position.

“RIP mate , sorry our country’s politicians have let you down..”at 3:25 pm with 71 likes. A reply at 3:47 with 10 likes reads, “I don’t know what people expect out of a labor govt. They make no secret they are all for minorities and PC.” (the same author later writes more against government and minorities at 3:52 pm – see below). A further reply at 4:45 pm with 7 likes reads, “[name redacted] I agree this country has let this man down he paid for it with his life. I will say sorry to the family because this Government won’t. I think we need big rallies to get the attention of everyone. I wish I was younger I would,probably go to them but getting bit long in the tooth now but support Australia all the way. It should be held in a,very promonate place and everyone with holding the Australian flag to show the world we do not except this. With everyone filming it on there mobile phones.” Another reply at 5:08 pm with 9 replies reads “Very true. I bet the gentleman who got killed was a law abiding immigrant, like my folks, worked bloody hard for his family his entire life. Not like the new wave of entitled lot.”

The exchange shows a mix of views about the identity of behind part of this group. Blaming politicians seems to be something everyone can get on board with. Beyond that, differences of opinion start to emerge. Some reject multiculturalism outright, while others seek to differentiate “new immigrants” from “old immigrants”.

“More innocent blood on our gutless Government hands. RIP old man , you didn’t deserve an end like this” at 3:39 pm with 28 likes.

“Time to take back our country!” at 3:40 pm with 4 likes.

“I wish the government would stop with the mental health crap. A terrorist attack is a terrorist attack. Sugar coating it with mental health problems doesn’t make it any less.” at 3:46 pm with 12 likes.

 

“I’m on your side and thanks for doing what you’re doing, we need unity here, and yes we are sick of their ‘it’s not Islam or gangs’ , we all have troubles but we don’t go out and rape pillage and plunder not to mention murder” at 3:48 pm with no likes.

A meme with a man pointing something out to his son and caption “Look son. A ‘mentally ill’ Afghan, who totally isn’t a terrorist_” at 3:49 pm with 6 likes.

“It was labor that bought the boat people. It was labor and greens that whined for those in detention. Its always labor that give these minorities more rights than the rest of us – IN OUR FKG COUNTRY!!!!” at 3:53 pm with 9 likes. This post is in some sense the opposite of the one at 3:21 pm, with an attack on minorities in general. It is from the same person who earlier replied to a comment saying “I don’t know what people expect out of a labor govt. They make no secret they are all for minorities and PC.”

“No one deserves that. Sympathy and apologies to the gentlemans family. Not good enough Aus govn.
This terrorist violence on innocent citizens has to stop. NOW.” at 4:39 pm with 6 likes.

 

 

 

This section is currently being worked on further.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Facebook should automatically apply an exemption to the copyright right checking protocols for live streams from authenticated emergency services accounts. Alternatively, Facebook should down grade the block to a warning the user has the option to override.
  2. Victoria Police’s social media team did an outstanding job both during and following the incident and this excellent work should be acknowledged.
  3. Victoria Police should live stream all press conferences on both Facebook and Twitter.
  4. An unedited recording recording of press conferences should be placed on YouTube with a transcript available in the description.
  5. The webpage with the propriety live streaming should be removed / not promoted to the public.
  6. We recommend continuing the approach of publishing a link to an acceptable use policy and banning users who do not comply with it, but suggest this message be embedded at the end of each Facebook post and not posted as a separate comment.
  7. While roughly the same content should go out on Facebook and Twitter, the platforms could be used more naturally if this was slightly relaxed.
  8. Victoria Police should archive all posts that need to be removed from its own Facebook page and where needed follow up with a formal warning
  9. Facebook should require page admins to take responsibility for moderating comments on their page. Report made by other users should initially go to the page admin for review. Repeated failure to moderate content that breaches Facebook’s terms of service should see the rights to be an admin revoked.
  10. Facebook should limit the ability to be a page admin to accounts that have existed for a reasonable period of time and made a reasonable number of posts. This is in order to prevent low effort fake accounts being used.

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