George Christensen is an outspoken Liberal National Party politician who represents the electorate of Dawson in Queensland.
Christensen is very active online. He has an official Facebook Page, a newsletter, a podcast and has registered dozens of websites for his campaigns.
In Malcolm Turnbull’s 2020 memoir, A Bigger Picture, the former prime minister claims that he was briefed by then AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin about Christensen’s “unusually complex online presence”.
And while the former prime minister hasn’t answered questions about what exactly that means, what appears to have been Christensen’s personal Facebook Page may provide some insight into his online activity.
Christensen’s office did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails about the now-deleted account, including whether it belonged to the MP or whether he shares the beliefs of the Pages it followed.
The account — which doesn’t feature any photographs of Christensen — purported to be the MP. One of the account’s few public posts asked people who wish to contact him in a professional capacity to ring his office number. The number is the same as Christensen’s office number listed on Parliament of Australia website.
A person whose account was friends with the ‘George Christensen’ account and has interacted with its posts told Gizmodo Australia that it belongs to Christensen. Lawrence Tapia Santamaria was a guest priest at St. Stephen Mission House, a community of the Anglican Catholic Church in the Missionary Diocese of the Philippines, when Mr Christensen visited. Santamaria said he met Christensen, friended the ‘George Christensen’ Facebook account and he has shared content from the account.
He identified Christensen as the owner of the ‘George Christensen’ account when contacted by Gizmodo.
The ‘George Christensen’ account has interacted with accounts belonging to individuals known to Christensen. The account had friended, commented on, and had its images liked by a seminarian who completed a pastoral year at the Mackay Catholic Church parishes of Mackay Southern Cluster where Mr Christensen has featured as a guest speaker. The seminarian did not respond to calls or Facebook messages from Gizmodo.
Following Gizmodo’s enquiries to Christensen’s office, the Facebook account’s settings were suddenly changed to make its liked Pages private. Weeks later, the account has been deleted.
Even if this account does belong to Christensen, that does not mean that Christensen shares the views of these Pages or that it has influenced his positions as a member of Parliament. Gizmodo does not suggest otherwise. Nor is there any evidence that Christensen engaged with any of the Pages’ content, other than liking the Pages in the first place.
It is also not clear whether these Pages were known for posting that kind of content at the time that the ‘Christensen’ account first liked them, or whether the focus of the Page has changed since the time the ‘Christensen’ account first liked them.
Finding the ‘George Christensen’ Facebook account’s liked Pages
While much of the ‘George Christensen’ account was set to private, until recently the accounts’ liked Pages were public. Gizmodo archived a copy of the more than 1300 Pages liked by the account.
Facebook Pages liked by an account influence what a user sees in their News Feed and what they’re recommended. If an account likes a Page, its posts will be shown to the user in the future.
The ‘George Christensen’ account had followed many different types of Facebook Pages. Pages about Christianity, Australian and international right-wing politicians, media outlets and causes, and Pages for Queensland businesses are prominent among them.
But also present in the account’s likes are Pages that regularly post misinformation and bigoted content. One Australian-focused conspiracy Page posts about the absurd and dangerous QAnon conspiracy, anti-Bill Gates conspiracies, COVID-19 denialist and anti-vaccine content.
Another international conspiracy Page also shares posts alluding to the QAnon conspiracy as well as claiming that COVID-19 was made in a lab.
Gizmodo has chosen not to name these Pages to limit the spread of conspiracy content.
The account also followed Pages that are either overtly or covertly promoting white supremacist content. One Page, Alt-Right Catholic, claims that “separation of the races is the only solution” and cautions its audience to watch out for “beta priests” who preach against racism and white supremacy.
Another page, This is Europa, regularly refers to ‘The Great Replacement’, a white supremacist idea that was cited by the Christchurch killer in his manifesto. The ‘thinktank’ posts scaremongering content about white citizens becoming minorities in their own countries.
One Page followed by the account, Persecuted Christ-Chan, frequently uses the echoes symbol in its posts about Jewish people, a symbol that’s recognised as an anti-semitic hate symbol.
Among the liked Pages are some of Australia’s right-wing Facebook Pages that have repeatedly shared Islamophobic and sinophobic content, including some large pages like Respect Australia Rally – National and Guardian Of Australia.
One such Page is The Unshackled, an alt-right Australian online publication run by Tim Wilms. Wilms has drawn criticism for wearing a ‘Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong’ shirt, alluding to the dictator’s persecution and murder of left-wing activists, during a livestream on the Page and for repeatedly platforming Neo-Nazi Blair Cottrell.
Why this account’s liked Pages matters
Christensen is one of the most vocal backbenchers in the Australian Government. His advocacy on issues like Australia-China relations and religious freedom have shaped public debate on these topics.
For many Australians, Facebook is a major source of information. And this list of liked Pages, if belonging to Christensen, appears to give insight into the information diet that feeds one of the loudest voices in the Australian Government.
A full list of the account’s liked Pages can be viewed below:
Did you see any noteworthy pages? Or do you have a tip about other stories about the Australian internet? You can contact Cam at [email protected]