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Australian MP installed security cameras out of ‘genuine fear’ after posts by conspiracy theorist, court hears

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Federal MP Anne Webster installed security cameras at her home because she feared being physically attacked in her home town of Mildura after a conspiracy theorist accused her of being a member of a secretive paedophile network in a series of vicious social media posts.

The Guardian revealed on Saturday that Webster, along with her husband, Dr Phillip Webster, had launched defamation proceedings against New Zealand-based Australian conspiracy theorist Karen Brewer over a series of posts made on Facebook in April this year.

The posts, which were shared hundreds of times including on accounts associated with Mildura, accused the MP of being a member of a secretive paedophile network who had been parachuted into parliament to protect a past generation of paedophiles.

According to court documents, Brewer claimed, falsely and without any evidence, that Websters family had engaged in incest resulting in a genetic defect in her seven-year-old granddaughter, and that an organisation founded by the couple to help single mothers in Mildura access education was a cover for the supply of young teenage mothers to a secretive paedophilia network.

The case marks a significant touch point in the real-world implications of the flourishing world of online conspiracy theorists in Australia. In emotional testimony during a federal court hearing on Monday, Webster, the Nationals MP for the seat of Mallee in regional Victoria, said the heinous posts left her devastated, mortified and fearing for her safety.

I have a certain level of anxiety that somebody who buys into this could abuse me verbally or physically, like if people actually believe this the sense of threat is there, Webster told the court.

Its heinous and if they do believe it I wouldnt blame them for having a go at me in the street. Its utterly distressing to have someone able to publicly speak complete lies, fabricated untruths about you, about my family [and] the threat of that given my public position now was really horrifying.

Webster said the comments about her granddaughter had been particularly distressing. She broke down as she described fearing the seven-year-old would become aware of the allegations.

The fact that these things are public means it is inevitable [that] at some point in time my granddaughter who is very beautiful will hear about this and its disgraceful, she said.

Webster told the court she had spoken to other parliamentary colleagues who had also been targeted by Brewer but said she had been the focus of a particularly sustained campaign by Brewer because her step-uncle, the former federal MP Alasdair Webster, had been accused of historical child sexual abuse offences.

Brewer has to date taken no part in the court proceedings against her and the court heard on Monday that despite a previous judgment ordering the posts be removed she had continued to make allegations about the couple as recently as last week.

Webster told the court she feared the abuse would continue and said she had taken action in the court after Facebook had failed to take sustained action against Brewer.

Particularly because Alasdairs case is in process and could be in process for two years I have no comfort that she can be stopped, the MP said.

Webster told the court that despite contacting Facebook to have the posts removed after being made aware of them in April, the social media company initially would not pull down the allegations.

It took a long time for those posts to come down, she said.

[Brewer] was never going to [take them down] but I certainly believe Facebook needs to take more responsibility and be more responsive about these kinds of posts.

Despite the court hearing that Brewer lives in New Zealand, Websters barrister, Justin Hooper, said the posts had been shared on Facebook pages linked to the local community in Mildura. He said the case illustrated the extraordinary power of Facebooks network effect to precisely target a particular locality.

Websters husband, Phillip Webster, a local doctor in Mildura, told the court he felt he had a stain over him in Mildura after the posts. He described feeling deeply anxious as a result of the posts, and revealed the couple had installed security cameras at their home out of genuine fear they could be targeted by Brewers followers.

I look at her Facebook followers and many of them are very vulnerable and I think damaged people that she stirs up to do things that are protest in their nature but some of which are downright violent, he said.

I still do have a genuine fear that some of those who follow her may choose to do things which are not only defamatory in terms of Facebook but violent in terms of confronting us in public. Ive installed security cameras on our front and back door in the past few months just because I have some significant genuine fear about what could happen.

As the Guardian reported on Saturday, Brewer is one of Australias leading conspiracy agitators. Her personal Facebook page, which has thousands of followers, includes a steady stream of live videos railing against the cabal of Freemasons she believes controls Australias parliament, judiciary, media and bureaucracy as part of an extensive pedophile protection racket.

Justice Jacqueline Gleeson reserved her judgment on Monday, but said it was clear that the Websters had been severely hurt by these defamations.

I also accept the question of vindication of reputation is particularly important in this context in my mind it is hard to imagine a more serious sort of imputations than imputations made against senior and respected members of our community, she said.

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories – KTVZ

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Sanders and Schumer call on McConnell to hold hearings to fight election conspiracy theories - KTVZ

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Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to create a new bipartisan committee focused on election integrity and schedule hearings to reassure Americans over a process President Donald Trump has repeatedly sought to undermine.

There is growing anxiety among Democrats, and some Republicans, that Trump will not only continue to sow doubt over the legitimacy of the coming election but throw the subsequent count into chaos by declaring victory before all the votes can be tallied, including the millions that will arrive by mail.

In a letter to McConnell, Sanders and Schumer quote back the Kentucky senator’s own words, in which he attested to the reliability of mail-in voting by citing its successes in Oregon, Washington and Colorado, which have been using the system for years.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of mail-in voting, promoted conspiracy theories questioning election security, called on supporters to act as unsanctioned “poll watchers,” and suggested that the absence of a clear result by the evening of November 3 would in some way cast doubt on the eventual outcome. Key allies in powerful positions, like Attorney General Bill Barr, have followed suit. Barr has persisted in puffing up a debunked claim that ballots received by mail would somehow strip the sender of their privacy — ignoring well-established safeguards.

By escalating the matter now, Sanders and Schumer are responding to growing concern, in partisan and nonpartisan spaces, that Americans are not adequately prepared for the potential of a longer-than-usual wait for results or Trump’s willingness to short-circuit the democratic process if he smells defeat.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come together to ensure that we have a free and fair election where every vote is cast and counted without intimidation,” Sanders told CNN, “where no one has to put his or her health in danger to cast a ballot, and where we have full confidence in the results.”

The proposed hearings would invite a cross-section of election officials from across the country to testify to the security and reliability of mail-in, early- and in-person voting — subjects on which Sanders and Schumer, again, referenced McConnell’s own words.

“Despite the clear security of our vote-by-mail system, some have continued to undermine it with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” they wrote. “As you have correctly said, people ‘can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail,’ and that voters should ‘not worry about your vote not counting.’”

The minority leader and Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also want more detailed discussion about the fraught hours, or days, after the polls close and a real-time watch of the election horse race potentially swings from one candidate to another.

“We know a number of states may well be counting ballots for a period of time after Election Day, and that those votes may be determinative in this election,” the senators wrote to McConnell. “To avoid disinformation, conspiracy theories, and suspicion about results, we must understand the likely timeline for this process.”

The letter goes on to reference the recent war games-style preparations conducted by a group called the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan gathering of operatives and academics that made headlines when some of the outcomes of their exercises — including “both street-level violence and political impasse” — were reported on in late July.

“A bipartisan group of experts and officials have studied multiple scenarios where the outcome of the election was not immediately known. Some of these scenarios resulted in unrest and even violence,” Sanders and Schumer wrote, suggesting the Senate should elevate similar discussions and familiarize the public with the uncertainties ahead. “We would like to hear from the most knowledgeable people in the country as to how we can do everything possible to make sure that the election and the period afterward is secure and peaceful.”

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS official sorry for conspiracy theory video

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HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a critical, integral part of the presidents coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration’s failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency’s weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump’s travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced there from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, The Ukraine Hoax, claims the presidents phony impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS…

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unwinona:This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS...

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My RSS Feedunwinona:

This is exactly what conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers have done with their HIV/AIDS and Polio narrative (among others), only we’re seeing it escalated to weeks and months instead of years or decades.

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