Dec 13, 2008

Lifestyle - Facebook under fire for racial slur

SYDNEY: Social networking site Facebook has come under fire from Australian users for ignoring racial vilification on the site and allowing in
racist groups which have been marked as offensive.

Alex Gollan, a Sydney-based Facebook user, who campaigned against the racist groups, has been threatened with violence, and he now fears that the site will be used to rally people for violence.

This week the site permanently banned one offender, but only after the racism issue came under the spotlight after revelations that Scots College and Kambala students had created anti-Semitic groups on the site.

Some of the racist Facebook groups are, "F--- Islam", "I hate Israel", "You're in Australia ... Speak English!", "Aussie Pride! Love it or Get The F--- Out", "Learn the Aussie Language, Respect Our Way Of Life, It's Not Hard!", "Respect Australia or F--- Off!", "Asian drivers should be forced to display A-Plates" and "I cannot tolerate South African Accent".

Some of the postings that were posted were full of racial epithets, derogatory remarks and threats and taunts for Muslim users to blow themselves up or leave the country.

"I have personally had groups which have been set up for the appreciation of where I live ... which have had rude and racial pictures uploaded by members in a hope to spark some sort of 'online fight' where people become all hard and tough behind their computer screens and say things they would never say if they were put in person," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Sydney Facebook user David Cohen as saying.

Aboriginal Facebook user Chris Bonney and several of his friends tried for months to convince Facebook to shut down the group "I'm not apologising for shit u f-- abo's - this is our country now!", however, he received no response from the site.

Bonney said he eventually resorted to contacting people who appeared on the friends list of the group's moderator, informing them of the racism.

"He eventually closed down the site because of our work ... but the main issue is Facebook didn't do one thing to stop this sort of behaviour," Bonney said.

Asked to respond to the claims that it was not doing enough to stamp out racism on the site, Facebook said it took all complaints by users seriously and there was a "dedicated team" investigating such complaints, which can be made through the "report" function on any page of the site.

"Facebook is a platform, and as such we sometimes see users posting about, debating and discussing controversial issues," the company said.

"However, this alone is not a reason to disable a group. Facebook will investigate, and will remove any content that violates our Terms of Use," the company added.

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