Online abuse: ‘It’s so common it’s almost banal’


June 26, 2016 – 12:15AM

Rachel Olding


Mariam Veiszadeh is regularly sent abusive messages on social media. Photo: Supplied

Each time Mariam Veiszadeh gets a death threat, she does a cost-benefit analysis.

The online abuse is so frequent that the lawyer and anti-Islamophobia advocate wouldn’t get any work done if she reported it all to police.

“I think about the consequences of reporting, the time and effort that goes into it, the psychological impact it has on me to pursue these matters, the potential outcome and whether it’s all worth it,” she said.

Trina Pania Hohaia was fined $1000 for using a carriage service to offend. Photo: Facebook

But just before midnight one night last July, a message landed in her Facebook inbox that she didn’t ignore

“Watch as we come for you in your sleep cut your throat as you do the animals you torment,” it said. “Kill your family for you to see. Kill your uncle which is now your husband slash grand f—er.. I will find you and hunt you down.”

In one of very few cases of online abuse that are prosecuted, Trina Pania Hohaia, a 38-year-old mother from Guildford, was convicted in her absence in Hornsby Local Court in September. The Reclaim Australia supporter, whose name and image were visible on her profile, was fined $1000.

An abusive post sent to Mariam Veiszadeh by Trina Pania Hohaia. Photo: Supplied

Online abuse has become pervasive yet the number of criminal convictions cover a mere fraction of the hateful material flung around the world wide web.

Figures provided to Fairfax Media show charges for using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend – the antiquated piece of legislation that online abuse falls under – have doubled in five years.

Last year, there were 1111 convictions from 1585 charges in NSW although the figures are not broken down by web or telephone threats. The most common punishment was a fine of about $700, far from the maximum prison term of three years.

Zane Alchin pleaded guilty to sending rape and death threats to Paloma Brierley Newton and others. Photo: Nick Moir

This week, two high-profile cases ended in guilty pleas. Central Coast chiropractor and former Liberal Party member Chris Nelson, 64, admitted to posting racist abuse on the Facebook page of Indigenous politician Nova Peris, and 25-year-old labourer Zane Alchin admitted to a torrent of rape and death threats sent to a group of Sydney women.

However, three in five Australian adults say they have been the target of online abuse and harassment, a 2015 RMIT study found.

“When I started research in this area, you had to go out of your way to find online abuse. Now it’s so bad, you have to go out of your way to avoid it,” Emma A. Jane, a UNSW academic conducting a three-year study into online misogyny, said.

Lucy Le Masurier, Paloma Brierley Newton, and Ollie Henderson set up Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced after Zane Alchin sent them abusive messages. Photo: Janie Barrett

“It’s become a lingua franca online. If you don’t agree with a woman, you send a rape threat or tell her she’s too ugly to rape. It’s so common it’s become almost banal.”

The internet, particularly social media, has brought empowerment and opportunity but it has quickly become a double-edged sword.

Eight-five per cent of women told the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development last year that the internet provides them with more freedom, yet 73 per cent said they had been abused online.

Zane Alchin leaving the Downing Centre Local Court this week. Photo: Nick Moir

Anti-semitic and anti-Muslim abuse take up the lions share of reports made to the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s Fight Against Hate. Misogynistic and homophobic abuse follow closely behind.

OHPI chief executive Andre Oboler said social media had amplified and emboldened pre-existing bigotry.

“People who feel isolated, who may have racist views but keep it to themselves because the people around them don’t support it, will easily find people who agree with them online so suddenly their inhibition drops,” he said.

While the internet’s veil of anonymity allowed a culture of abuse to develop, both Alchin and Nelson posted abuse under their own profiles. It has “become normalised to the extent … people seem quite happy to do it under their own names now,” Dr Jane said.

This is fuelled by the perception there will be no real-world consequences, she said.

Only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of offensive content reported to Facebook and Twitter is removed, OHPI found, and the impacts can be detrimental.

A father who used Facebook to post messages of support for refugees told Fairfax Media that hateful responses from far right groups over the past 18 months escalated to phone calls to his wife. Fake profiles and offensive memes with his image have been spread online. He fears it will affect his future job prospects and his family’s safety.

The 47-year-old, who asked for his name to be withheld, said he was laughed out the door when he reported it to Hobart police. “But in the same breath they said they get a lot of Facebook-related suicides,” he said.

Of the 50 women Dr Jane has interviewed, none had a satisfactory response when they reported online abuse to local police. Some were told to take a break from Facebook or to change their profile picture to “something less attractive”.

Paloma Brierley Newton, the subject of Alchin’s abuse, was initially turned away by Newtown police. She had stepped in to defend a friend whose profile from the dating app Tinder was being shamed on Facebook for being too provocative.

It was only when she set up an advocacy group with her friends, Sexual Violence Won’t Be Silenced, and went to the media that police became interested.

She hopes to introduce training to all local police stations, where cases of online abuse are investigated.

Assistant Commissioner Gary Worboys, corporate spokesman for victims of crime, said victims of online threats “can and should expect the complaint to be taken seriously”.

“While there is no … legislation in Australia that is specifically for cyber bullying, there are existing laws police use,” he said.

While prosecutions are important, Dr Jane said we needed to address the reasons why people posted abuse.

“We’re still a long way from cultivating a culture of accountability online,” she said. “There have been massive institutional failures at the level of corporations, social media platforms, police and policy makers.”













Stop the Penrith mosque sez the nutzis? Too late losers.

Back in September last year the Online Hate Prevention Institute was successful in getting this particular hate page removed.

You can read more about this unlamented hate group here

Despite supposedly being removed, this page has returned to an apparently oblivious Facebook in the form of a Facebook event designed to attract bigots, phobes and other peculiarities to the latest fashion in hate targets – Muslims.


Note how the event creator who goes by the name of Tyler Winchester (or Mark Winchester – obviously cannot decide which) has co-opted a newspaper photograph for a Timeline pic showing hostages from the recent tragic Martin Place siege. Real classy these nutzi extremists.

And it’s not often you see a bunch of Nazis nutzis (or neo-Nazis – no significant difference, all stupid) getting together with “concerned citizens” (i.e. the ones who’d be saying “I’m not racist/bigoted but…”) for a xenophobic love-in. The nutzis as always are desperately seek some sort of normalisation and legitimacy: the CCs are too dumb to realise this.

Now the nutzis like to show their chests to girls… or each other. At least their self-proclaimed leader (too embarrassed to show his face) does.

Even though these aren’t his six-packs.


And they aren’t even white men!




Let’s journey back to the beginning of this saga of bigotry, to a bunch of flyers distributed around the Penrith area and the role of one Councillor Marcus Cornish.

Cornish, a Liberal Party member, stood for Penrith Council in 2012 as an independent when the Libs decided not to endorse candidates. Heath Aston has more here in the SMH including Cornish’s friendship with disendorsed anti-Muslim Liberal candidate David Barker.


This is how the Daily Telegraph saw it on 28th October

On the 4th November the Tele revisited the story and noted that Cornish now had an ally, one Councillor Maurice Girotto. Girotto, it may be noted, is a former member of Australia First.

Ultimately Penrith Council approved the proposed community centre with some restrictions related to noise, hours of opening and traffic, despite a handful of noisy bigots turning up to protest and five letters mainly relating to noise and traffic.

“Anonymous” has an outline on slackbastard’s blog

And good work Penrith Council standing up to bullies, batshit crazies and bigots.

The ups and downs of an anonymous, anti-fascist life

Reblogged from Overland


Anonymity is a funny thing. ‘The one barrier me and my buddies have regarding beating the shit out of you is your anonymity,’ an anonymous critic once informed me.

I declined to provide the angry Aryan with my personal details, but his message, and many more like it, reinforced the idea that giving the general public – and hence neo-Nazis – my name and address would probably not be a good move.

‘What’s your name?’ is a very common question, the answer providing a potential wealth of information. The relationship between a name and a person is something I’ve had reason to seriously contemplate over the last few months, especially as it relates to my monitoring the activities of the far right. Happily, the Internet makes it possible for a person to assume any number of names and to affix to them a variety of personalities.

Malcolm Harris writes that a ‘fundamental anonymity means names stand not for individuals, but for contingent singularities, subjects that are not who but what they say’. For some, this can be a liberating experience: anonymity provides a shield, from behind which they can express ideas their position otherwise precludes them from doing, or doing in relative safety. In my experience, anonymity has its downside too: maintaining it is time-consuming, I’m unable to claim credit for a large amount of the work that I do and I’m often unable to take advantage of opportunities to do other, equally interesting kinds of work.

Several years ago, there was some public discussion regarding blogging and anonymity, occasioned by the public exposure of several local bloggers. In one 2008 case, several Victorian Liberal Party staffers lost their jobs after it was discovered they’d been attacking their party’s then leader, ‘Red’ Ted Baillieu, on an anonymous blog. In 2010, The Australian (editor’s note: it was James Massola) took it upon itself to out the political blogger Grog’s Gamut as Greg Jericho, a public servant. Although these unmaskings were decidedly unwelcome, the staffers who lost their jobs have gone on to bigger and better things, as has Jericho. This year, on behalf of the Australian Writers Centre, he judged The Koori Woman as the best commentary blog of 2014. He continues to write for The Guardian and the ABC’s Drum. His research on blogs and social media was eventually published as a book, The Rise of the Fifth Estate, ‘the first book to examine the emergence of social media as a new force in the coverage of Australian politics’.

Some have argued that online anonymity is like a cancer on the body politic. In 2009, Clive Hamilton wrote that an ‘ugly culture of dogmatic and belligerent interventions now dominates social and political debate on the Internet’. In Australia, The Anti-Bogan regularly documents aspects of this culture and publicly names and shames those engaged in racist, sexist and homophobic abuse online. The Melbourne-based Online Hate Prevention Institute has declared that it aims to ‘be a world leader in combating online hate’ and ‘change online culture so hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is “in real life”’.

Perhaps the most telling argument for the importance of anonymity is the act of whistle-blowing – consequently, hacktivists are always seeking to stay one step ahead of authorities. One of the latest such ventures is Media Direct, ‘a secure communications platform facilitating direct and anonymous contact with leading journalists’. Launched in May, Media Direct represents a further evolution in whistle-blowing technology, according to its Australian coordinator, Luke McMahon. ‘We’ve produced a self-contained system,’ he says. ‘Media Direct brings together technical and non-technical tools to realise the most appropriate approach to the contemporary media environment. Media Direct, unlike Wikileaks, is not a publisher, but rather allows whistleblowers to safely convey information to select journalists directly.’ In this context, anonymity exists at the opposite end of the spectrum to celebrity.

The ability to convey information safely is obviously key to whistle-blowing, but in the context of anti-fascist organising, both collecting and conveying information to the public present certain difficulties. Daryle Lamont Jenkins, of the US-based antifascist organisation One Peoples Project, acknowledges that ‘as with anything there are pros and cons to being anonymous, but a big issue is that within antifa circles most of us are’. This is justifiable, ‘understandable and oftimes when it comes to gathering info, necessary. Problem is, with so many of us taking that route, it makes us that much more inaccessible and detached. That’s a problem. Antifa need to be more public.’

For activists, the chief obstacle is that being public can mean serious harassment. The Australia First Party, for instance, has recently published a series of increasingly bizarre claims regarding my blogging activities, both on its website and on leading White supremacist website Stormfront. Party leader Dr James Saleam is a veteran fascist with a long string of criminal convictions, most notably organising a shotgun assault on the Sydney home of African National Congress representative Eddie Funde in 1989. Stormfront itself is ‘the web’s most famous and ubiquitous white supremacist and neo-Nazi website’ – and has numerous Australian members.

While post-Second World War Australia has largely been spared fascist violence, elsewhere in the world the story is very different. Last week in Las Vegas, a former neo-Nazi skinhead named Melissa Hack pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to murder two anti-racist skinheads, Dan Shersty and Lin Newborn, in 1998.

As documented in such films as Antifascist Attitude (2008), numerous antifascists have been murdered by neo-Nazis in post-Soviet Russia. Indeed, one of the stars of the film, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, was murdered in Moscow in January 2009, alongside journalist Anastasia Baburova. Another documentary, about the life of murdered antifascist Ivan Khutorskoy, has just been released; there was also a European tour by two Russian antifascist bands to raise funds for his family that finished just last month.

The journalist who outed Greg Jericho argued that ‘if you are influencing the public debate … it is the public’s right to know who you are’, and that there may be tactical advantages to going public. But given the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary and the election of the NPD’s Udo Voigt to the European parliament (Voigt was denied a visa to Australia in 2003 to address a fascist gathering on the grounds of his poor character), the consequences of engaging in antifascist activity in much of Europe will likely escalate. How antifascists negotiate these opposing concerns will determine, in part, their success in combating the rising fascist tide.


Myth-busting Islamophobic lies and hoaxes

Our esteemed colleagues at the OHPI ( Online Hate Prevention Institute) have exposed yet another attempt by the usual sorry band of haters to circulate a scurrilous piece of propaganda.

In this instance the lies were reposted by someone in the Philippines but we have seen them extensively circulated on Australian hate sites., the hoax-breaking US site details the sad history. You will note that every Prime Minister from John Howard onward has been falsely attributed with this hoax.

A later version falsely attributes yet another version of the rant to former PM Julia Gillard.

Note that all the hybrid hoaxes contain additional US material from the US far ratbag right

Hoax-slayer is an Australian site which also uncovers such scams. Here is its exposé on the same fake e mail

Other hoaxes loved by the haters

Muslim “child bride” hoax

The bogots have a particular love for this one. They keep posting it everywhere even though it has been comprehensively debunked.

One wonders at the mentality of those haters who get off on imagined child abuse.

Then there’s the fake allowances supposedly paid to refugees and asylum seekers.

Those and the others can be found on our blog pages as the ignorant hate-filled bigots just keep on keeping on…