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Time is up for the trolls

I welcome the Morrison Government’s strong stand to protect Australians from online harm.

The Social Media (Online Trolling) Bill 2021 is an important reform in holding social media companies to account for the terrible harm caused by anonymous trolls.

Too many times, social media platforms have shown a reprehensible disregard for the safety and welfare of Australians.

My experience demonstrates that tech giants like Twitter will even go so far as to ignore police warrants seeking identifying information about online trolls engaged in alleged criminal conduct such as stalking.

In my case, Twitter has refused to comply with a police warrant issued by Geelong Police demanding that Twitter hand over identifying information concerning two anonymous Twitter accounts which have subjected me to systemic abuse and harassment.

I call on Twitter to comply with Australian law and provide Victoria Police with the identifying information it needs in order to investigate the cowards behind these anonymous accounts.

As outlined in my speech in the Parliament on 14 May 2020, there is compelling evidence that Corangamite Labor MP, Libby Coker, is directly or indirectly linked to one of these anonymous Twitter accounts, created in June 2016, which is run by local political opponents.  Over a number of years and particularly in the lead up to the 2019 election, the person or persons who ran this account subjected me to defamatory, vile and systemic abuse.

On 14 May 2020, I told the Parliament:

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, as the member for Corangamite I participated in a debate organised by Geelong Business Network, on 22 June, with the then Labor candidate, Libby Coker. During the debate, a denigrating post was published on this account stating that I looked like a 1960’s air hostess. Someone in the room had created that post. To her absolute credit, a female community leader attending the event told me she had seen the post and was appalled and said to Ms Coker: ‘If this has anything to do with you, it needs to stop.’ The post was removed within minutes. This was either an extraordinary coincidence or, at that time at least, Ms Coker had some direct or indirect connection with this Twitter account. She needs to provide a full, honest explanation.

Ms Coker, aside from her then campaign manager, was the only other political representative present at the candidates’ debate. Someone in the room had either published, or facilitated the publication of, the offending post.  Frankly, it is difficult to believe Ms Coker’s denials that she had no connection whatsoever with this Twitter account.

As I said today, I determined to ignore this online abuse until another anonymous Twitter account, also created by local political opponents in May 2019, superimposed a photo of my face onto the doctored mugshot of a woman, with the same name, who had murdered her two children in the United States.  This Twitter account made other abhorrent claims about me.

I will continue my fight for justice.

The Morrison Government’s reforms will go a long way to stopping the online trolls from defaming and harming all Australians, as well as holding to account the social media platforms which facilitate this online abuse.

29 November 2021

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