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Meta refuses to remove anti-Indigenous racist content despite complaints

Dechlan Brennan -

Social media giant Meta has refused to take action against people making racist comments on their platform.

First reported by The Age, Meta, who owns Facebook and Instagram, received complaints about racist commentary on the platform from the First Peoples' Assembly in March.

The democratically elected First Nations body then met with a Meta representative; however, the comments have not abated.

First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria Co-Chair and proud Gunditjmara man Rueben Berg said the announcement the federal Liberal Party would oppose the Voice to Parliament has coincided with a surge in racist abuse.

"Since Peter Dutton announced that his party would campaign for a NO vote, we've seen a dramatic rise in racist abuse and hatred directed at First Peoples, both online and in everyday life," Mr Berg said.

"The NO case is really emboldening the trolls and bigots. Our Assembly Facebook page went from getting a handful of racist comments a week to our staff having to report and block hundreds of people every week.

"So, we started our petition calling on Facebook owner Meta to do better in order to help protect the mental health and well-being of First Peoples during the referendum."

The Assembly said since meeting Meta, many other racist comments have been received and reported. Yet, they have been deemed to not breach Facebook's community standards.

Comments such as "feral Abos" and "black k@*ts" were deemed to have not breached Facebook's community standards and not action was taken towards the users, The Age reported.

Facebook's community standards define Hate Speech as:

"A direct attack against people…on the basis of what we call protected characteristics: race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity and serious disease.

"We define attacks as violent or dehumanising speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing and calls for exclusion or segregation. We also prohibit the use of harmful stereotypes, which we define as dehumanising comparisons that have historically been used to attack…"

Meta said that it had worked with Indigenous groups to remove racist content.

Mr Berg said Meta has known about the referendum since the Federal election last year, and "it's not good enough that they continue to allow racism and hatred to fester on Facebook".

"We know that the vast majority of Aboriginal people want the Voice to Parliament and want to be supporting the YES vote, but it's just really hard going when they get online to have a say and get screamed out by swarms of aggressive and persistent racists," he said.

He said he was hopeful that people realised this abuse was an everyday occurrence for First Nations people and would encourage them to support the Voice.

"Hopefully people see the levels of racism First Peoples are copping and realise that's what we're trying to change, and it motivates them to stand with us and vote yes."

Voice co-architect and an Indigenous Academic Marcia Langton accused the No camp of fuelling racism.

"We've seen this in calls for genocide now being made by the ugly, bottom-of-the-swamp racists flooding cyberspace with their crazy theories about the white race being under threat," she said.

In March, eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said negative experiences online can have a "profound impact on young First Nations people, triggering feelings like sadness and anger or a sense of isolation".

She said at the time that Aboriginal youth were experiencing online hate and racism at a level even higher than that suffered by Aboriginal adults.

National Indigenous Times has contacted Meta for comment.

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