Aboriginal commissioner slams ‘failed’ judgment
THE South Australian police force has been forced to remove from its Facebook page racist comments calling for the genocide of Aborigines.
The comments were published on SAPOL’s official news site after reports of a liquor store robbery included a description of the suspects as being of Aboriginal appearance.
Comments attacking Aborigines were posted in reply to the news report, including: “I can usually tell someone’s race by scent alone” and “genocide is the only sensible answer!”
One woman, who said she was Aboriginal and urged others to “walk a mile in my shoes”, was told: “go to the outback and survive” and “I would walk a mile in your shoes but someone of Aboriginal appearance stole them”.
Police said the comments were part of the “robust debate” that was allowed on the site, but its media unit had since deleted the offending posts.
The publication of the remarks raised the ire of the state’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, Khatija Thomas, who said police had “failed to use any judgment” in allowing the racist comments to be disseminated.
“The police and Facebook have a duty to monitor the content of what they put out on that page,” Ms Thomas said.
“Police have a duty under state racial vilification laws to prosecute and monitor and censor comments that are inflammatory, hateful and inciteful of violence towards Aborginal people.
“They shouldn’t need people like me to tell them what their duty is in terms of the Racial Discrimination Act.”
A police spokeswoman said yesterday that the organisation had little control over the material posted on the site beyond a list of automatically censored terms.
She said all posts had to be published before they could be monitored and deleted if necessary.
“SAPOL policies and views may not always be compatible with comments posted on its Facebook page, but that doesn’t mean they should always be removed,” the spokeswoman said. “To engage with a community means robust debate should be allowed to occur.
“However, all SAPOL’s social media users need to be aware that postings should be relevant, non-threatening, respectful of the views of other contributors, and not insulting, obscene or defamatory.”
Difficulty in monitoring comments has led to seven other regional police Facebook pages being shut down by SAPOL, less than a year after they were set up to improve community engagement.
The police spokeswoman said “news and information pages” for the seven local service areas would soon replace the canned Facebook sites.
“Facebook presents a number of challenges. It requires ongoing moderation to ensure material which is not defamatory, offensive or in breach of court orders is published in comment threads.”
Facebook says “hate speech” is not permitted on its pages. “It is a serious violation to attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition,” it says.