Facebook fallout: Kate Washington speaks with police regarding fake accounts

Port Stephens Labor candidate Kate Washington, left, and Liberal state election candidate Jaimie Abbott.
Port Stephens Labor candidate Kate Washington, left, and Liberal state election candidate Jaimie Abbott.

The Labor Party has called for the Liberal's state election candidate, Jaimie Abbott, to be disendorsed after one of her campaign volunteers was found to be connected to fake Facebook accounts used to 'attack' Port Stephens MP Kate Washington online.

Ms Washington has confirmed to the Examiner that she has since sought advice from police on the matter.

However, Ms Abbott has said she would not be stepping down and maintains that she had taken the appropriate action in releasing the volunteer, identified as Tasman Brown, a staffer to Liberal duty MLC Catherine Cusack, and apologising to Ms Washington when it was revealed on Friday that Mr Brown was linked to at least one of seven accounts investigated and deleted by Facebook.

"I'm not going to step down because of the actions of a campaign volunteer that has been stood aside," Ms Abbott said. 

"I have done the right thing here. The volunteer is suffering the consequences of his actions. He's been stood aside. I took action as soon as I found out.

"I've run three election campaigns now - federal in Newcastle, the council election and this one. My track record shows I run clean and positive campaigns."

Facebook deleted the seven accounts after investigating a complaint from Ms Washington who claimed Mr Brown had been operating fake profiles to undermine, or "troll", Labor's campaign in recent months.

Mr Brown denied operating the fake accounts when he was approached by the Newcastle Herald about the claims two weeks ago. He has since been removed from the Liberal campaign.

Ms Abbott and Mr Brown's personal accounts were among those deactivated by Facebook on Friday.

ADVICE: Kate Washington has confirmed she has spoken with police regarding fake Facebook accounts used to 'attack' her campaign.

ADVICE: Kate Washington has confirmed she has spoken with police regarding fake Facebook accounts used to 'attack' her campaign.

It is understood that four of the deleted profiles were for fake Port Stephens residents that would attack Ms Washington online and promote the Liberal government's campaign.

Ms Washington said it was not plausible that Ms Abbott did not know about the fake accounts and online trolling.

"When I referred this matter to Facebook and the Parliament last week, the Liberals categorically denied it and viciously attacked me instead," Ms Washington said.

“Ms Abbott needs to come clean on her role in this co-ordinated campaign to smear me and my credibility on Facebook.

"She has proven herself unsuited to parliament. I think the appropriate thing to do is to stand aside and relinquish her candidacy. Failing that, the Premier should move to have her disendorsed."

Apologised: Jaimie Abbott has appealed a Facebook decision to deactivate her personal account.

Apologised: Jaimie Abbott has appealed a Facebook decision to deactivate her personal account.

In response to the account closures, a Facebook spokesman said the action had been taken because Mr Brown's use of the social media platform breached its conditions of use.

Ms Abbott said she had appealed Facebook's decision to deactivate her personal account, which had been linked to Mr Brown's.

"Tasman had access to my personal account to be able to use it as an [administrator] for my public page," she said.

After finding out on Friday that Mr Brown and her own accounts had been deactivated, Ms Abbott phoned Ms Washington to apologise on behalf of her team.

The Clerk of the NSW Parliament is investigating a separate complaint from Ms Washington which alleges Mr Brown’s online activities were a breach of parliamentary resources.

Ms Washington said she would be referring the matter to the Electoral Commission and had sought advice from police on the matter.

The Examiner has sought confirmation from police that officers had spoken with Ms Washington.

The Liberal Party has lodged a counter-complaint against Ms Washington with the Electoral Commission for allegedly misusing the electoral roll to research the identity of the fake Facebook profiles.

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