By now you’ve probably seen the photos of the flag-waving crowds who have descended on Parliament House, calling for, amongst other things, an end to mandatory vaccinations.
Trucks, cars, and other vehicles formed a convoy, headed to Parliament, as part of a movement that began in Canada. The so-called ‘Sovereign Citizens’ group is in attendance, with many thousands of people protesting in the nation’s capital.
It’s an ugly scene, reminiscent of the Melbourne protests when Premier Dan Andrews mandated construction workers be vaccinated in order to keep working safely.
While the division in our country is laid bare on our streets, its arguably worse online.
Last week, a Gold Coast GP was inundated by death threats and abuse sent to his practice after a false report claimed that two young girls had begun “convulsing” in his clinic before dying after receiving the jab.
Dr Wilson Chin found himself on the receiving end of a wild conspiracy theory, playing into the overarching narrative that vaccines are dangerous and part of some global plan for a new world order.
A “personal eyewitness account” posted on a private community Facebook page about the girls, making claims that were entirely false.
Other Facebook users followed this up with further false information, describing the girls as “unresponsive when ambos got there” and encouraging others to “[s]hare everywhere”. Another user posted “Mum [of the daughters] is not responding to messages”.
Many online claimed that he had covered up the event and suggested he would need security to protect himself after individuals took matters into their own hands.
The doctor has since said that he will no longer be administering vaccinations for children as a result of the hatred he has received.
In response, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to crack down on anti-vaxxers on their platform, with RACGP President Dr Karen Price saying that Meta needs to act immediately.
“A GP receiving death threats simply for doing his job trying to keep his community safe is completely unacceptable and I won’t stand for it,” she said.
“Dr Chin had to stay at a friend’s place because he was so concerned for his safety and there have been sleepless nights for fellow GPs, the practice manager and the other members of the practice team at Pacific Pines Medico.
“The fact that staff at a nearby practice, which has never offered COVID-19 vaccinations to children, also received death threats shows you how reckless anti-vaxxers can be. Facts, reason, and rationality don’t matter, only their twisted agenda.
“I have been in contact with Dr Chin and made it 100% clear to him that the Royal Australian College of GPs is right behind him and that we will do anything necessary to back him against these malicious anti-vaxxer bullies. The college will also work with Dr Chin to provide guidance for other GPs and general practice team members who find themselves in a similar position.”
The RACGP has previously urged social media companies such as Twitter and Meta to do more to counter the spread of COVID-19-related misinformation and lies on their platforms, and crack down on anti-vaxxers.
Facebook has been particularly bad with the issue and has become an online meeting point for people who don’t trust the media to share wild allegations and unfounded claims about the vaccines and the virus. The company has previously acted to remove accounts and groups where misinformation is shared, culling hundreds in 2021, however, more clearly needs to be done.
“Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has a real opportunity here to walk the walk and back up their rhetoric by removing anti-vaxxers from the platform and making a concerted effort to counter anti-vaxxer misinformation and threats, including in private Facebook groups,” Price said.
“We cannot allow people like Dr Chin to experience threats, abuse and intimidation simply for doing his job.”