Shorten camp’s pre-poll heavying of Facebook

Shorten camp’s pre-poll heavying of Facebook, by Nick Tabakoff.

The story goes that less than a fortnight out from the May 18 federal election, polling ­indicated Labor was on track for a clear victory but for one big worry: a huge spike in interest in both sponsored and non-sponsored posts on Facebook claiming death taxes would be introduced under a Shorten government. Some Facebook posts had even compared Shorten’s angry denials on death taxes with ex-PM Julia Gillard’s promise that there would be “no carbon tax under a government I lead”.

At such a critical campaign juncture, Diary understands that Labor’s team dialled up the pressure in a phone hook-up with Facebook in the campaign’s penultimate week. There’s no suggestion that Shorten was on the call. But in­siders have confirmed one staffer representing him on the hook-up with Facebook behaved as if Shorten was already PM, telling the ­social media giant’s executives: “Remember: after the war, there’s the war crimes tribunal.”

The implication of that less-than-subtle warning was unmistakeable: Facebook would face a world of pain post-election unless it played ball with Labor to ­immediately remove the offending ads. Clearly a threat calculated to scare Facebook into action under a seemingly inevitable Labor regime, given it was ­already in the crosshairs of Rod Sims and the ACCC’s high-profile inquiry into internet giants.

When Diary contacted Facebook last week, the social media giant had no official comment on campaign interactions with Shorten’s team. However, a spokesman confirmed Facebook had taken action by giving “reduced distribution” to posts that claimed Labor wanted to bring in death ­duties after fact-checking found them to be “false”.

Would Facebook do the same for the Liberals, or any other non-left party? Were they even asked? Or are left-wing lies and fantasies allowed to flourish unimpeded in Facebook?