Members of a Galway Facebook site were shocked and concerned by racist comments which appeared on their page recently, leading to fears that internet racism may be a growing phenomenon.
The comments appeared on the Friends of Merlin Woods Facebook page on June 1 when the site posted a link to an online petition entitled ‘Stop The Road Through Merlin Woods!’
The site is run and supported by a wide range of individuals, including residents on the east side of the city, local politicians, and environmentalists, and seeks to protect and promote Merlin Woods as a recreational green space and scenic beauty spot for the city.
Site members were horrified by the comments, which were not posted by members of the site and which were probably not intended to be posted on the group’s page.
The comments made disparaging remarks about Africans; accused Africans of “hiring limos wit our money”; and saying “bring back Hitler” and “bring back the white sheets”, the latter a reference to the Klu Klux Klan.
“We were shocked by what we saw,” says Colin Stanley, one of the FOMW Facebook page administrators. “I think it was an accident, I don’t think these posts were intended for our site, but you still don’t expect to come across that in this day and age, and particularly in a city like Galway.”
The Friends of Merlin Woods immediately took down and deleted the post and contacted Facebook to highlight this instance of internet racism.
However they were informed that the incident “did not breach” Facebook’s standards and so no action would be taken, a response that disappointed and surprised the group.
As a result, Mr Stanley issued a statement on the FOMW site describing the comments as “vile, disgusting behaviour”, and saying that “racism of any kind will not be tolerated on this page, or any other that I admin”.
Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh was also contacted and advised site members to inform the gardaí about the issue.
Mr Stanley is concerned by this instance of internet racism and is urging Galwegians to be vigilant against any such occurrence on Facebook or any other site.
“Our advice to people is not to turn a blind eye to such incidents,” he says. “It is the only way to stop it. Any incidents should be reported to the Garda”.