Election trolls rear their heads

A CANDIDATE in the upcoming council elections in Cockburn found two bullets in his driveway the day after publicly declaring his opposition to Roe 8.

A failed attempt to strike the controversial road f

rom Perth’s planning scheme by the McGowan government has seen it revived for the election, pushed along by Federal Tangney Liberal MP Ben Morton.

Mr Morton has taken out full-page ads in the Herald supporting the highway, and this week asked Cockburn’s candidates to sign a pledge backing the road.

“The Hon Ben Morton MP will be communicating to our community on behalf of candidates who sign in support of building Roe 8&9,” Mr Morton’s electoral manager Jordan Keesing wrote to candidates.

Tarun Dewan is running for East Ward in Cockburn and was furious to receive the federal MP’s message.

“I believe [this] is a clear interference in the council elections and violates the local government act,” Mr Dewan said.

But Central Ward candidate Phoebe Corke, who revealed the two-bullet threat, said that took the election to a new low.

“This is outrageous,” Ms Corke said.

“It’s local government elections, not Brothers in Arms.

“It’s really scary when the bullies are showing you that they know where you live.”

• Phoebe Corke said she treats trolls like ghosts – they shout but no one hears. Photo supplied

Ms Corke copped a torrent of abuse during the last election (“Trolling democracy,” Herald, September 30, 2018) and during the anti-Roe campaign found a dead bandicoot had been left on her driveway.

She said the trolls were devastating when she responded to a Letter to the Editor in the West Australian by a Roe supporter.

A photo taken of her with the Imam of the Cockburn Mosque was shared on anti-Islamic sites across Australia and even overseas, leading to 48 hours of death threats.

On the morning of the election, she turned on her phone to find 50 missed calls and 150 emails from sign-up websites ranging from porn, gambling and credit ratings to loans and shopping surveys.

“The volume was so great within the timeframe that more than one person must have been involved,” Ms Corke said, adding she’s still getting 50-60 spam emails a day.

But this time around she’s wised up and has a new email address just for the campaign.

“Two years ago, the returning officer from the electoral commission was surprised when I wanted to use a friend’s business address, rather than my home address, for election material authorisation and had to check that it was allowed,” she said.

“This time round the WAEC representative advised prospective candidates not to use their own addresses.”

Ghosts

Ms Corke said ducking social media in a campaign was electoral suicide, so she’s taking a different tack.

“I treat [trolls] as ghosts; they can shout but no one hears.

“On my own page, I’m the exorcist.

“I’ve put a word filter on visitor posts so that if someone uses any of the most common terms of abuse I won’t even get to see their post; it will be instantly blocked.”

Ms Corke says she hopes kicking out the trolls will open up time to speak to locals about issues the council can deal with.

by STEVE GRANT

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