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Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly says Facebook must act against ‘tidal wave’ of racist trolls

Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly has called on Facebook to act against the “tidal wave” of racist online trolls that it says have targeted its work.

The assembly, which has been establishing a framework for treaty negotiations between Indigenous Victorians and the state government, penned an open letter to the social media company on Thursday, saying it needs to do better in the face of persistent hatred and racism.

In the past week alone, the assembly said it has blocked about 300 people who have left racist slurs on its Facebook posts.

But when the commenters were reported, the assembly was told the posts do not go against Facebook’s community standards.

“If that’s the case, Facebook’s community standards just aren’t good enough and they are part of the problem,” the assembly’s head of communications, Amy Rust, said in the open letter.

The assembly was expecting an uptick in racist comments as discussion around treaty, truth-telling and the voice to parliament gained momentum, Rust said.

But the onus shouldn’t fall on Indigenous people to defend themselves against the “tidal wave of racism”, she said.

“We call on [Facebook] to work with us to provide a safe environment for everyone because our community shouldn’t be subjected to hatred just for existing,” Rust said.

She said it was also unfair that staff needed to sift through such hate while doing their job.

“We know the majority of Australians believe in fairness and are committed to walking together on this journey towards a better, reconciled, future,” Rust said.

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“To those who feel so threatened by Aboriginal people fighting for justice and equality, we’re willing to have the conversations.”

The open letter comes after ABC journalist Stan Grant announced last week he was stepping away as the host of the Q+A program because of persistent online abuse.

In a column published on the ABC website, Grant said barely a week goes by where he and his family are not targeted by racial abuse.

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