Facebook- Allyn John Slater and social media hate sites

What happens when online communities create “hate sites” particularly on testimonial sites of those who have passed on?  Does saying “I wanna kill him” mean anything online? What happens when we are shocked by someone else displaying other value systems than we have ourselves? Should Facebook become a global policeman or are they just Australia…

What happens when online communities create “hate sites” particularly on testimonial sites of those who have passed on?  Does saying “I wanna kill him” mean anything online? What happens when we are shocked by someone else displaying other value systems than we have ourselves? Should Facebook become a global policeman or are they just Australia Post?

I’ve been asked to do a number of press interviews – actually quite a lot – about the anti Allyn John Slater pages on Facebook and other online communities. I don’t want to get into the alleged crimes – involving the murder of a very young girl – but rather the community reactions on Facebook, and other social media sites. Oh and my interview on ABC radio AM program is here

Pixel Threats in social networks

I guess the first point is that calls for the death penalty and the “I want to kill him” statements are “pixel threats”. By that I mean, if you were to get a gun, put it in the person’s hand, you’d find out it was all bravado. Except in a few instances where there are real nutcases out there. And there are – the internet collects together into communities those on the fringes, including the unbalanced.But in the main, it’s like yelling at the TV or chatting at the pub – “if I could just get my hands on him, I’d show him what-for!”. We normally say it where we are safe – or after a few beers. Facebook in the main makes us feel safe. We see other people that mirror back (echo back) our values so we just come out and say it.

To think it and not say it, is inauthentic. But it is politically correct. In other words, part of the ritual and rules of community living, online or off.

We collect people who share our value systems in social networks

There ain’t no way, no how, that the people on ComplaintsBoard are going to act the same way as when they are on EssentialBaby or even LinkedIn. But it’s worth reflecting on the fact that large social networks such as Facebook (400million active monthly users, 8 million of ’em are Australian), often swarm down into small groups that share our values. The Page below is currently 6,000 members. Even if it grows to 100,000+, it still only reflects the same sort of % of Australians that yell at the TV “bring back the death penalty!”.

This site had 5,000 members an hour ago, now 7300 at 8:44pm Wednesday 24th Feb

Remember – while you are educated and aware that everything you say online affects your reputation, there’s a huge % of people that won’t understand what you mean when you ask them “are you sure you want to post that up there”. They are not dumb, they just don’t equate writing on a Facebook wall with “publishing”. They are chucking out their opinion, getting some argybargy arguments going on, and then move onto something else.

Warning sites become hate sites

It’s still beggars belief but you have to explain to some people that posting up evil stuff can incite others to do it. Titillating. And incite others to be outraged at them for posting it up. Here’s the response from an admin who posted up a video of a woman killing a kitten and then took it down again:

Telling people I will ban them if they post up warnings again gets them very grumpy at me. They just don’t equate their actions as being similar (but on the other page) from the perpertrators they are trying to “protect” the community from. And warning “threads” or articles incite unbalanced wars.

I’m even second guessing myself while I write this blog post – will it incite someone to be disruptive on another Testimonial page out there? Cos this is very common, not limited to just this case. And not just to a case in the press. I’ve seen testimonial pages in online communities where in the end the wife and the girlfriend have gone to town on each other, making all sorts of threats. God only knows what the funeral was like…

Move along, nothing to see here

When email first came out, the fear of kids getting evil spam was pretty high. What if they got hardcore porn sites? Well they did and we use junk mail filters and we move on. The same will happen here. Don’t join, don’t even go looking for groups outside your value system. Cos if you want to find a redneck survivalist right wing faction online, you will. They exist in real life too,  you just don’t normally work with them or have dinner with ’em. If you don’t want to join the drug culture and find out how to have a hit, don’t join those pages. Cos those groups exist in real life too, you just don’t go partying with them. Do you? DO YOU?

Facebook as Australia Post

Facebook didn’t create those pages – and every time they take one down, there will be ten more. Think of Australia Post deliving a poison pen lettter. Are they responsible for the contents? no. Telstra deliver SMS – are they responsible for negative SMS messages? No of course not. Facebook is in the same boat. And there’s no point yelling that Facebook is “public” and Australia Post is “private”. Cos that’s a whole different argument.The only reason we separate now the public defamation vs private opinion cases is because one is enforceable and the other is not. If you defame someone at the pub, it’s ignored by the law.

Yes Facebook should work with law enforcement (not just ignore situations) but…

Facebook as Global Policeman

Facebook is like life – not just the bits you see, but the other bits too. A tapestry of life including some icky brown spots. But do you want Facebook to be your Police? Your Nanny? Your Censor? For me, the answer is “no”. And Google is trying to do just that (ignore Chinese requests to hand over people’s details but give them to the Brits instead).

I thought long and hard about writing this post  – I’d turned down interviews because the journalist seemed to be looking at the “social media is bad” angle. I had some interesting chats with AM program and Australian. If I publish the post – I usually don’t if I am doing traditional media – will I preempt their publications? Is that fair – get a quote from Laurel only to then see it published on her own site. I guess I finally realised…it is what it is. My voice can exist in more than one place. I have a different audience. It’s my experience and opinion to display where I want. And I can do it first! 😛

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  2. Lots of existing SN sites have a solution to this problem – comment voting. Sites like Reddit and Digg allow users to quickly bury offensive/off-topic/troll posts. Such purile and despicable attention seeking behaviour would only last mere seconds if such a feature were available in Facebook. It’s a feature that FB would do well to consider, particularly for groups.

    1. it used to be called the Slashdot community voting system. I like it because one person’s fierce debating is another persons trolling. Such an interesting area – hard to figure out if the people create the pages for attention (manic depressives or something) or are genuinely passionate or just bored and wanting to stir the sh*t . Most admins just wish they wouldn’t do it on their forums 😛

  3. I’m always really surprised at how many girls get involved in these vigilante groups; and how violent their language is.

    1. Agreed, I just spent the evening browsing through the facebook group – It sure is an all out hate-fest…

      Strangely, having done that, I really hope he’s guilty. I wouldn’t want to witness so many people to be so horribly mean to someone without any reason.

      Must go and do something nice now!

  4. I told my children, way before the internet, not to put anything in writing that they hadn’t thought through completely and to cool down for 24 hours if they were angry. One of my daughters ignored my warning… just once. She later regretted putting her feelings in writing while she was angry. Lesson learned. You are right. If it’s in writing it is published. Once it’s “out there” you have no control whatsoever on where it lands, or who sees it.

  5. To compare Australia Post and Telstra to Facebook is nothing short of worthless pap. ‘Poison pen’ letters delivered by Australia Post are for the addressee only.

    1. I can photocopy 3000x and send out…
      But you kinda missed the bigger issue – Australia Post doesn’t write the letters, Facebook doesn’t write the wall posts. And asking Facebook to precensor is not dangerous it’s impossible.

      1. Interesting to note that using Telstra and Australia Post services to threaten, intimidate, harass, libel etc. an individual is actually a criminal offence, whether the person initiating that harassment believes it to be legitimate or not!

        Despite Facebook itself not being responsible for what is published, it could still be argued that Australian based users are probably committing an offence under the Telecommunications Act if they incite hatred online.

        These Facebook “hate groups” are amusingly reminiscent of the pitchfork waving, flaming torch carrying mobs in Boris Karloff horror films.

        Good to see the “please explain” folk still searching for their posteriors with both hands and trying to lead the indignant “Current Affair / Today Tonight” hang ’em high morons.

      2. And you ‘kinda’ miss the point, however if you’re someone is that prepared to pay $1,500 sending out ‘poison pen’ letters…
        And as I said, those letters are for and are only read by the personal addressee only, Facebook is a public forum.
        Do you understand “don’t shoot the messenger”?

        1. Exactly – “don’t shoot the messenger” – the messenger could be Australia Post delivering poison pen letters, Telstra SMS delivering bulk SMS to organise Cronulla riots or Facebook delivering pages for Australians to crap over each other publicly. We are in agreement! 😛

  6. Laurel Papworth, I think the article you wrote is certainly an interesting one, one thing I would like to point out is, the Pixel threats comment is flawed I feel. You state that the people who believe he should die for his crimes are simply full of bravado, or in the case that they could pull the trigger, are nutcases. I consider myself to be an everyday sort of person, I have a job, a wife, child on the way, 3 dogs and a mortgage. But I can tell you now, that if he is found guilty and you put the gun in my hand I would use it. Not out of anger but out of a deep belief in capital punishment. Just my thoughts……Josh.

    1. I originally thought that nutcases were the ones that would seek him out and execute him without due process. But in a sense, anyone that doesn’t share “our” value systems is considered wrong, an outsider, a nutcase. Thankyou for your comment Josh.

  7. Reading some of the comments on the site put me in mind of public executions – crowds used to flock to them for entertainment (social media sites are now the village square?).
    And then there’s the mob thing…
    And maybe also the world upside down thing – the nagging feeling that we’ve (possibly) all got it in us to do something abominable … and that howling at the person who’s actually done the abominable is kind of like letting off a relief valve.

    1. Those are very thought provoking insights. The ‘village square’ and the ‘abominable relief valve’.

  8. Laurel, brilliant post … found today profile of Trinity Bates, with her photo and this person impersonating her set up a group ostensibly saying that Trinity is alive and its an insuance fraud. I just feel for the family when people impersonate the murdered child. I have reported the group to facebook, here are the links if you wish to report


    I agree, have seen many sites and purposefully have not entered the fray there because there is no point .. the young females screaming for murder, the men provoking reactions, what is the point, but here, hopefully there is a modicum of intelligent debate. I appreciate the points you have brought up, and loved this blog today Laurel, take care

  9. In case you have missed it, Facebook is the new, free, easy-to-use ISP for a variety of fringe hate groups who normally wouldn’t even rate a mention in the older media.

    Thanks to Facebook no longer do these groups have to fork out money for websites and forums, with the risk that many ethical ISPs will refuse to host their content and that they will be the target of DOS attacks. No longer do they need to rely on word of mouth to expand their membership. They have a ready supply of the young, the naive, the psychologically impaired and the disaffected, and a site policy which is focused on the notion that nothing matters except getting in more potential customers.

    Facebook, more so than other fashionable social media outlets has the capacity to imitate the older message board format and permit themed threads where the disaffected can then bash their favourite scapegoat of the day.

    Have you ever tried to get offensive and defamatory material removed from Facebook? Particularly offensive and defamatory material on hate sites which is illegal under the terms of Australian legislation?

    This material more often than not contains offensive racist, bigoted and obscene descriptions of immigrants, asylum seekers, Muslims, Jews, gays…

    If people cannot get this material removed by the normal Report mechanism (usually the case unless there have been adverse reports in the MSM) are they then supposed to “move on”? Is hate speech objectionable to the law and to mainstream Australia or has hate speech become mere “opinions” to be sought like a poll on the relative merits of Rudd and Abbott?

  10. Thanks for this post. In my fb networks, there are many calls to ban racist & racially vilifying fb groups (against Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples). Its seems that every couple of days, a new group/page pops up and everyone bands together to report it (sometimes it works & sometimes not). I’m really in two minds – do we add oxygen to their fire (and draw more attention to them)? Or do we just recognise that they exist on fb (as they do in the real world), being aware yet ignoring them and get on with our own conversations? An on-going dilemma I think.

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