Facebook gets it wrong on Aboriginal Memes

Current status (Updated 24 August 8:30am, Melbourne time)

A new Aboriginal Memes page was created on August 23rd, the day before the launch of Australia’s National Anti-Racism Strategy. It seems some people just don’t get it. If you want to put a stop to it, please report the page. Details are on OHPI’s Facebook page.

On August 18th OHPI was made aware that the “Aboriginal Memes” page, removed around 7pm on Thursday August 9th by Facebook, had been restored. Access to the page has instead been blocked from Australia and Facebook have told the administrator they can keep it. They have also restored the account of one they key promoters of hate, Charlie Militia.This action makes Facebook complicit in the spread of hate speech and raises serious questions about the inability for Facebook to self regulate when it comes to hate speech.

This action followed developments earlier in the week including a story this issue, with commentary by OHPI’s CEO, on national TV news in Australia (SBS News), and our communication with Facebook which is presented and discussed in our August 15th press release. It also followed additional e-mails with Facebook over a range of violations of both the law and Facebook’s terms of service by the user Militia Charlie – one of seven fake profiles operated by the creator of one of the Aboriginal Meme groups. Facebook had suspended the Charlie Militia account, but have now reactivated it. OHPI can’t understand why Facebook is allowing this account to continue operating when it is clearly a fake account and the user has explicit said so, and indicated they are operating a range of other fake accounts. Facebook should be releasing the user’s identity to law enforcement closing all their accounts – not facilitating their activity.

Another page, ‘Abo Memes’, was removed around 9pm on August 10th after it grew to around 3,000 fans, it has also now been restored and is only blocked in Australia. A third page which Facebook at blocked Australia, “Aboriginal Memes 2: Electric-Boogaloo” is still suspended or deleted. The page “Aboriginal Memes 3D: The Imax Experience” was also deleted and is unlikely to come back as IMAX were informed and by all accounts were not impressed.

OHPI continues to urges Facebook to take this opportunity to stand up and clearly express its opposition to the Facebook platform being used as a vehicle to promote hate speech, and to the abuse of the platform by users creating multiple fake accounts.

OHPI’s Future Action:

  • Over the next two weeks OHPI will be working on a detailed report on this incident
  • We have begun speaking to international partners about a stronger response
  • We are working with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Police and Facebook to resolve this issue and improve efficiency and effectiveness of the response to such incidents in the future.
You can take action:
  • If you are an Indigenous Australian and wish to lodge a complaint about Aboriginal Memes you have seen, please contact the Australian Human Rights Commission. If you are able to send your complaint in via e-mail this would be preferred.
  • If you are NOT an Indigenous Australia but know an Indigenous Australia who would like to put in a complaint but needs assistance doing so, you can assist them by offering to put in a complaint to the AHRC on their behalf.
  • OHPI have activated our Facebook page, people are welcome to become fans to stay in formed of this issue and future problems related to online hate
You can become a fan of our Facebook page here:

Full Information (in order of original posting)

Facebook has refused a request to remove a page of racist memes. Instead, the social media company has called it “Controvertial Humour”. The page mocks serious health issues, promotes negative stereotypes, and is clearly unlawful under Australian law. A petition started on Wednesday August 8th can be signed here.

OHPI encourages people to sign this petition and calls on Facebook to not only disable the page, but also to release the name and contact details of the creator to the Australian Human Rights Commission so a complaint against this person can be pursued.

OHPI’s CEO commented, “Facebook’s response here is plainly wrong and we hope it will be urgently reviewed. Now that the company is public, it cannot afford to let these sort of mistakes linger. Facebook does not have the expertise to understand the context of hate of this sort, they need to listen to and be guided by experts. OHPI is consulting other experts in putting to gether a report on this incident. We hope, in the next few days, to present Facebook with the evidence it needs to re-evaluate the decision. At the same time, given the offensive nature of this page, not only to Indigenous Australians, but to all Australians, we hope Facebook will realise their mistake and remove the page before we complete our work.”


The content of the page has now been removed, it looks like the owners have taken this action rather than Facebook themselves. The Race Discrimination Commissioner and staff at the Australian Human Rights Commission are handing complaints in relation to this matter. A dedicated e-mail address will be set up for this incident tomorrow. People are asked to hold off reporting their ocmplaints until it is up and running. Check back here or see www.humanrights.gov.au tomorrow for details.

A user claiming to be behind the page has been engaging people in discussion in the group against it. It isn’t verified if this account actually is behind the page. In either case their comments have esculated this to a new level. In one comment they wrote,  “I’m not racist, I don’t care who kills the coons”. This highlights the need for Facebook to allow direct reporting of comments made in pages – the needs is critical when such comments may contain death threats.

Update 2: 7:10pm August 9th (Melbourne time)

The page has now been deleted. We still call on Facebook to release the details of the people who created and were owners of the page to the Australian Human Rights Commission so they can contact them in light of the complaints they have recieved.

Update 3

Here are a couple of shots of what later transpired in the group against the Meme page after the content had been removed:

Update 3:Update: Information from Tuesday 14 August

The third page, “Aboriginal Memes 2: Electric Boogaloo” only reached around 159 fans. It was created around 3pm on Friday August 10th after the earlier pages were deleted. Access to the page was blocked for all Australian Facebook users, likely in response to the legal issues rather than the moral issue of hate promotion. In writing to Facebook OHPI highlighted that the hate speech was not only unlawful in Australia, it was also a violation of Facebook’s own Community Standards. As such, OHPI asked Facebook to remove it, rather than merely blocking it. We are please to see Facebook took this final step.