ABC gives green light to hate speech

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A couple of weeks ago the Online Hate Prevention Institute called out the ABC for sparking Facebook hate and then assuming that having moderators automatically meant there was no hate speech on the ABC Facebook page. The posts by the ABC and comments in response from users related to a highly controversial ABC Four Corners program titled “Stone Cold Justice”. As OHPI explained to the Australian Jewish News, the assumption was deeply flawed because it assumes moderators both see 100% of comments and get it right 100% of the time. This is clearly absurd as a number of examples of content they failed to remove made clear.

Our comments quoted in the Australian Jewish News made clear the need for adequate moderation, not simply a “best effort”:

“Their usual levels of moderation will be inadequate, and it is unacceptable for them to simply do their best with these limited and insufficient resources once they choose to open that can of worms.”

The ABC is now back in the firing line over user comments in a related post that remained online for a month. We are pleased to see the ABC has now dropped their absurd assumptions but they need to do more.

Their current position, as explained to the Australian Jewish News, is that only comments on fresh content will be moderated:

“the agreed protocol requires a reasonable moderation of comments for a period of time around a program’s broadcast, but accepts it is not possible for the moderators to guarantee the page is free from offensive posts”

As the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has reported, an example of a comment was:

“Thugs, criminals, persecutors, oppressors, murderers, and terrorists sum up the jews (sic) for me”.

This approach gives a green light to racist comments, like that above, provided they fall outside of the moderation window. If this is the best the ABC can do, they need to get out of social media entirely. It would be completely inappropriate for the Australian tax payer to be funding platforms that would turn a blind eye to bigotry.

Facebook allows moderators to see comments in the order they are posted, so there is no technical reason to limit moderation to comments on recent articles. The ability for new comments on old content to be propagated and shared when made to old posts means this content still has visibility and the ABC still has an obligation. The ABC must moderate all new comments, regardless of the age of the original post to which they reply. This is basic common sense.

If the ABC would like some advice on how they can handle social media they are welcome to give OHPI a call. For now what we continue to see is clear evidence that those making the policy decisions really don’t understand how social media works. With the amount of money the ABC spends in this area that is itself deeply concerning.