A senior advisor to controversial politician Craig Kelly is running dozens of local Facebook groups in the MP’s electorate without any disclosure of his employment.
Gizmodo Australia has seen more than 30 examples of Facebook groups specific to Sydney’s Sutherland Shire that have the personal Facebook account and public Facebook Page for Frank Zumbo.
Zumbo is a long time aide and employee of Craig Kelly, the rogue Coalition-turned-independent MP who is best known for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and climate change.
Despite this, Craig Kelly has stated as recently as this week that he is standing by his staffer. Gizmodo does not suggest that Zumbo’s employer, Kelly, had any knowledge of these Facebook Groups.
What are these local Facebook groups that Frank Zumbo is running?
Zumbo’s groups cover a range of topics — from general groups like “Living in Sutherland” to specific interests like “Sutherland Shire Pool Players” — but are all linked by their geographic location. The groups have been created by Zumbo while he has been employed by Kelly.
@cameronwilson look who else runs pro liberal Facebook groups in the Sutherland shire @BelindaJones68 @vanbadham @bencubby @JaneCaro @niltiac @DanielBleakley @TheBaumann @Alabasterade @tegangeorge @leighsales @samanthamaiden pic.twitter.com/sI55FbcjUa
— NateD (@NatedawgO7) April 7, 2021
Nowhere does Zumbo disclose his political links. Zumbo has repeatedly posted in the group, but Gizmodo has not seen any evidence of political posts.
Just yesterday, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced that another controversial MP, Andrew Laming, was the subject of an investigation after the Guardian’s Sarah Martin reported that the besieged MP ran “more than 30 Facebook pages and profiles under the guise of community groups.”
The AEC requires any social media content to have an authorisation if the communication is about an ‘electoral matter’ that’s “by or on behalf of a disclosure entity.”
Running Facebook groups is different to running Pages. Rather than posting, administrators of the groups — which in many areas have begun to replace local news — can decide what kind of information and commentary is amplified using the group as a platform.
An administrator could censor criticism or promote certain news (however, there is no evidence to suggest that Zumbo has done so). And because it’s not transparent, there’s no way of knowing what decisions administrators have taken.
When FriendlyJordies told his fans to set up local Facebook community groups, the political YouTuber said the reason was because running small, localised groups will allow them to “control the narrative”.
Zumbo has been contacted for comment.