Outrage over Aboriginal memes page

UPDATE: The Aboriginal memes Facebook page was removed on Wednesday night.

AUSTRALIA'S race discrimination commissioner says complaints relating to "cyber racism" are on the rise.

A Facebook page allowing users to post racist "memes" about Aboriginal people has served to highlight the growing problem.

Late on Wednesday the Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed it had referred the page's content to the Classification Board.

ACMA announced earlier it had launched an investigation into the page after receiving a number of complaints.

The page, which SBS reported was created by a 16-year-old Perth boy in April, had attracted more than 4500 "likes" as of 5pm on Wednesday.

More than 100 of the those likes came in the space of an hour on Wednesday afternoon, no doubt reflecting the media attention.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke would not say how many complaints had been received about the controversial page, but did confirm reports cyber racism had increased dramatically in recent years.

She said the Facebook page, which she described as "upsetting", was an example of the challenges social media presented.

The way people used social media, and not the medium itself, was at the root of the problem, she said.

Dr Szoke said the fact Facebook had not moved to shut the page down was "surprising" considering some less offensive material was often removed immediately.

Her own call to the social media giant had not been returned as of 1.30pm on Wednesday.

"What we know is that racism will always exist. What we also know is that people don't actually understand that something like this is racism. They think it's just a joke, just having a bit of a lark,' she said.

Dr Szoke said those using the free speech argument to defend the page were off the mark.

"There's a difference between free speech, which is in the public interest, and the depiction of people on the basis of race, which is insulting, humiliating, degrading and stereotypical," she said.

The page, which had the words "contentious humour" added to its title on Tuesday, appears to violate Facebook's own "hate speech" policy.

Facebook considers hate speech to be "content that attacks people based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease is not allowed".

The page was still active as of 5pm on Wednesday.

A Facebook page calling for the company to shot down the Aboriginal memes site had attracted more than 1000 likes late on Wednesday, with about 200 of those coming in the space of an hour.

Facebook has been sought for comment.

Topics:  discrimination facebook memes

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