An animated cartoon posted by One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has been removed from multiple social media platforms after it was flagged for spreading false claims about election fraud in Australia.
- The video also contains a racist trope about the origin of COVID-19
- The AEC said multiple voting during the 2019 federal election was a “very small problem”
- A misinformation expert said the video undermined “our democratic processes”
The two-minute animation depicts Labor senate leader Penny Wong bringing a bed-ridden and shirtless Anthony Albanese a bowl of soup before divulging party plans to conduct voter fraud.
Ms Wong’s caricature then references false claims about deceased people voting, postal votes being stolen out of letterboxes and incorrectly states the 2010 election, where Julia Gillard formed a minority government, was swayed by electors fraudulently submitting multiple ballots.
The cartoon also contains a racist trope about the origin of COVID-19.
The video, which has racked up almost 100,000 views across multiple platforms, earned the ire of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), which lodged complaints about the video with the leading social media companies.
At the time of writing, the video has been pulled from Ms Hanson’s Facebook and TikTok accounts. A version of the video on Twitter now carries a “misleading” content warning.
“There is no evidence that the level of apparent multiple voting in Australia has ever been sufficient to overturn the margin in any one contest,” an AEC spokesperson Evan Ekin-Smyth said.
The AEC said there are multiple safeguards to ensure deceased Australians are removed from the voters register and to validate postal votes.
“We regularly receive data from births, deaths and marriages to take deceased Australians off the roll,” Mr Ekin-Smyth said.
“We also validate postal vote applications against the roll prior to distribution and again upon receipt of a completed postal vote.”
Ms Hanson has refused to remove the video, taking to her Facebook account to complain about the video being pulled down before repeating the false claims about voter fraud.
“Sometimes the truth hurts, so I won’t be taking down the cartoon on any social media platform,” she said.
Anne Kruger at misinformation research organisation First Draft said the video pushed a well-worn trope of voter fraud, which has been used to discredit the electoral process in the US.
“This has the effect of sowing doubt among voters despite, as the AEC noted, there being no evidence to support such claims,” Dr Kruger said.
“However, the damage is done and this undermines our democratic processes. Politicians have an eminent position in our society and need to be mindful of the weight their words carry.
“Additionally, and even more worryingly, this tweet appears to have weaponised the use of satire or parody. It is disappointing that this device has been used to post hateful, polarising and divisive content.”
Unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud dogged the 2020 US elections, culminating with the storming of the US Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, following Donald Trump’s claims of a “stolen election”.
Similar voter fraud claims election made their way to Australia ahead of the election with some minor parties and alternative media outlets pouncing on the issue, despite a lack of evidence.
Google Trend analysis from First Draft found there has been a notable increase in interest in fringe “freedom” parties in relation to postal voting in the past week.
Earlier this month, the AEC and Facebook warned of “dangerous” voter fraud narratives spreading across Facebook, which were seeded by candidates from minor parties, including One Nation and the United Australia Party.
Late last year, the Morrison government was forced to withdraw a contentious Voter ID bill it supported which, if successful, would have required Australian voters to produce ID in order to vote.
Critics argued if enforced the rule would disenfranchise vulnerable Australian voters.
One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who championed the bill, has repeatedly advocated for voter ID reform to address alleged election integrity issues including claims of impersonation and multiple voting.
But recent estimates from the AEC suggest the rate of multiple voting during the most recent federal election in 2019 were a slim 0.03 per cent, adding that the issue of multiple voting was “by and large, a very small problem”.
The AEC has added the issue to its disinformation register, stating: “There is no evidence of postal vote applications being received under the names of deceased Australians”.
One Nation has been contacted for comment.