June 23 2016: WIN! This page has been removed, but additional problems exist. For an update on this story, see our AFL Memes Update.

The AFL Memes page (ID: 258629594224050) has been around since March 2012 and currently has 196,334 supporters. It’s address is https://www.facebook.com/TrollAFL1 clearly identifying it as a trolling page. Trolling occurs in social media when someone tries to disrupt the normal use of social media by others using an inflammatory post or comment. 

Not all trolling is a problem, some trolling is just for fun and does no real harm [1]. The AFL Meme page has for years promoted this kind of trolling producing humorous memes about AFL teams, plays and fans. Most of the memes had their creator clearly named and while having a go at various clubs and their supporter base the trolling was done in a spirit of fun which could be shared even by those whose club was being targeted by a meme.

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Recently, and particularly in the last 48 hours, the page has moved away from harmless fun and into “serious trolling” to grow its fan base. Serious trolling occurs when the purpose of the trolling is cause harm by promoting hate speech or aiming to cause serious distress. In this case the serious trolling involves a combination of racism and objectification of women. It’s unclear if this has been done by the original admins or if ownership of the page has changed. The page also links to a website which is a further attack on women and whose purpose seems to be the generation of advertising income through Google supplied ads.

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A recent post shows an image a Gorilla and a child. The image is from a few days ago and shows Harambe the Gorilla at Cincinnati Zoo moments before he was shot by the Zoo in a successful effort to rescue the child who fell into the enclosure. The meme is both racist and has undertones of violence. It plays on a tragic recent news situation which racially abusing Mr Goodes.

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See it live and report it here
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com so we can count the number of items it is reported

What is encouraging is the strong response from supporters of the page who spoke out. The most liked comments both express disgust at the meme and receives very significant levels of support. Those who have spoken up here have played a valuable role in providing counter speech to the hate. Unfortunately even with almost 1,000 likes on these two comments, that is still far short of the number of people who liked the meme or shared it, which further spreads this racist hate. Even if we considered all 3,242 comments to be opposed to the meme, which isn’t accurate, that would still fall well short of the 1,190 shares and 6,000+ likes the image has received. This shows why counter speech, while valuable, cannot be the entire solution. If we want to remove such racist from society and send a message that it is not welcome, we need to do more than speak up. We need such content to be deemed unlawful in order to send a message about what is acceptable in our society. We have such laws in Australia and it’s important companies like Facebook respect them and respond swiftly, as they have just agreed to do with European hate speech laws.

This meme was an “improvement” on an earlier one the page shared featuring the same Gorilla and the same underlying message. Interesting the page administrator asked people to vote on whether he should remove the image. The vote can be counted in the responses with 5,859 liking it, 284 saying it was funny and 157 expressing anger. Of course any response helps to further share the image, so many have have opted to report it rather than respond with any kind of like.

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See it live and report it here
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com

This is not the first time the page has attacked Adam Goodes. In July last year the meme below was posted attacking Goodes for “playing the race card”.

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See it live and report it here
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com

People who complained about “playing the race card” then are now posting and sharing memes like the two above.  This highlights how empty the argument about playing the race card really was. It was nothing more than an excuse by bigots to assert a non-existent right to be racist at the expense of minorities. In the last 24 hours we have seen a similar thing with people arguing “freedom of speech” in opposition to a new deal between the EU and the major social media platforms. Those arguing for freedom of speech almost without exception are using anonymous fake accounts with a tack record of using Facebook to spread hate speech. They are not arguing for some noble principle, they are simply seeking to protect their ability to have fun at the expense of others.

 

Misogyny and the sexual exploitation of women

Before  using racism to boost its numbers the page was using a series of images objectifying women. Their registration of the domain trollafl.com has been anonymised, but police should be able to get an order for the domain registrar to release owner of the domain. The registration was filed just 11 days ago.

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See it live and report it here (choose: shouldn’t be on facebook, then pornography)
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com (select misogyny)

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See it live and report it here 
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com

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See it live and report it here 
You can also report it to FightAgainstHate.com

In addition to the usual problem with content like this in social media which is aimed at ages 13+, in this case the content undermines significant work done by the AFL to ensure a positive family friendly culture. This is not the sort of content the AFL wants its code associated with, even via a troll page which is entirely outside the AFL’s control.

The TrollAFL.com site is part of a scam for online advertising. Visit a page like this one http://trollafl.com/2016/05/25/yoga-fitness-best/ and the text is all about the University of Michigan graduate programs. This University of Michigan content is also set in the tag information for sharing in social media. It’s a bait and switch which someone is making money off. 

Summary

Social media companies need to do more to quickly and accurately remove content which violates their terms of service. To push them into action we need your help to report the contents. If you haven’t already done so, please report the content linked above, then report the page. We have instructions for reporting images and for reporting pages if you need help.

Hate speech like the racist attacks on Adam Goodes which is unlawful needs to be swiftly and accurately removed. Laws prohibiting hate speech must be respected in all countries with the rule of law and democratic government provides a system for the citizens, and their elected representatives, to strike a balance between the right to human dignity and the right to freedom of expression. These human rights can clash and neither are absolute but each democratic countries decision should be respected. In Australia the balance we have struct is that racist hate speech is unlawful. On that basis, OHPI calls on Facebook to promptly remove all three racist memes discussed above.

The sexualised images of women the page posted, while not unlawful, are very likely a breach of Facebook’s community standards. This is both due to the nature of the images and due to the way they are used as part of a scam. We call on Facebook to remove these images well and to review other similar images. Facebook would do well to keep its platform free of such content. For those interested in engaging further on this topic, we recommend Collective Shout, another Australian Charity, who do excellent work campaigning against the objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services. 

Given the way the page has degraded and its efforts at scams and racial abuse we ask Facebook to consider closing the page. It is no longer serving the purpose which its supporters signed up for and closing it would send a message warning others not to dabble in racism as a tool to promote their pages.

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