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Not our fault: AFL players on sexist web group


Samantha Lane and Kara Irving

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The seedy side of social networking

A secret online men's club on Facebook has raised questions over social network privacy.

PT0M0S 620 349

THREE North Melbourne footballers have been caught up in the controversy over a men-only Facebook group that posts revealing photographs of young women without their consent.

The players - Jack Ziebell, Hamish McIntosh and Robbie Tarrant - are among about 8000 men said to have joined "The Brocial Network" since its launch just a fortnight ago.

But as controversy swirled around the site yesterday, North Melbourne insisted its players had been conscripted without their permission or knowledge. The players have since removed themselves as group members.

And there was speculation last night that The Brocial Network may have already been blocked or shut down - less than 24 hours after The Age revealed its existence. A member, who asked not to be named, said he could no longer get access.

The exposure of the site has prompted an outcry. Women whose photos were secretly posted expressed fury and complained about being harassed online by strangers who had viewed the images.
The Age's exposure of the group also appeared to prompt a flurry of online activity yesterday, with the group's operators restricting access  and policing the postings of members, while at least two rival groups for women emerged.

North Melbourne said its players were  advised to check their Facebook accounts yesterday for any links to the group, and to remove themselves immediately if they found themselves to be members.

Within an hour, McIntosh, Ziebell and Tarrant told the club they had unwittingly become members. "These players were added to the group without their consent. The players are no longer on the group's list," North media manager Heath O'Loughlin told The Age. "We will be contacting Facebook to find out how this has occurred," he said.

"At this stage we are not concerned that any of our players have acted inappropriately."

O'Loughlin said he had not asked the players whether they had used the site: "We haven't really gone down that path yet."

North pointed The Age to an article on detailing a flaw in Facebook security that enables members to be added to online groups without their consent.

The AFL said last night it had no evidence that any player had acted inappropriately. But it was investigating how many players and clubs might be implicated. "We would be concerned if any players were putting up photos, or were actively involved in a forum that appears to objectify and degrade women,"  AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson said.

North Melbourne has had a sharpened awareness of the perils of social media since the 2009 "Chickengate affair", in which a video simulating abuse of women was made by former  captain Adam Simpson and current player Daniel Pratt and posted online.

North players have since been  counselled around the league's "Respect and Responsibility" policy, and Pratt is an ambassador for the White Ribbon anti-violence campaign.

Before The Brocial Network disabled viewing access of its membership yesterday, The Age viewed pages that confirmed McIntosh and Ziebell as members. It is believed that a fourth North player was also on a member list, but the club said it was unaware of that.

The creator of the site, who calls himself King Brocial, was yesterday policing posts by members after some put up nude images of women,   apparently in violation of group  rules.

Naming of photographed women  was also being discouraged, with "King Brocial" threatening a member with exile if he failed to remove two names.

A women-only Facebook group, "The Brocial Network Revenge", was yesterday the subject of  online abuse from men.   Among the comments were that  the women have "brought this on [themselves]" and  "women...  should just stay in the kitchen".

The women's group creator, who asked not to be named, said it was   "a place for us to vent and discuss the fact that it is ridiculous that nothing can legally be done about  [The Brocial Network] or the people in it".

Another group for women,     "Hot Melbourne Men", has been created in response to The Brocial Network as a joke among friends, according to its creator,   who identified herself as Eva.  She said she wasn't fazed that her image was taken from her  Facebook page and  circulated on the Brocial site.


  • Fighting sexism with sexism by creating rival women-only sites doesn't work. Sexism is sexism, plain and simple, whether committed by men or by women. For shame! No-one is a piece of meat!

    Date and time
    May 19, 2011, 7:03AM
    • This is terrible for the woman involved. What would the response be if Fev had been involved. Would the Footy Club and the AFL have brushed it all off. On the subject of Fev, under the AFL rules when would he be able to play for the Dees ?

      The Coast
      Date and time
      May 19, 2011, 7:05AM
      • This story is huge...HUGE..I can't believe...
        Hang on, gotta go read that disgusting article about the footballer doing 41km in a 40 zone...

        Date and time
        May 19, 2011, 7:20AM
        • Sexism, just like racism, elitism, ageism is just one of the grand defining tenets of Australian, or any, society. Attempts to stop or eliminate it are as futile as banning exhalation after breathing in. And why would you want to? Supression only leads to pressure finding another way to exit. Do as we did when I was a child to clear the air; realise it, let it out, face it, fight over it and let it settle back, diffused and therefore no longer the focus of unwarranted importance and attention. Making it into yet another PC-infected issue is denyingwho and what we really are, like it or not. Facebook however; now that's just plain stupid.

          reality bites
          Date and time
          May 19, 2011, 7:21AM
          • Apparently they signed up to the group: 'Unwittingly' - do they take us for fools? You 'elect' to join groups on Facebook - not the other way around. Even an old bloke like me that struggles to turn on the bloody machine knows that. And if an article on a website says otherwise, they why wasn't I added? That's descrimination! Yes, it is absurd what I'm suggesting - almost as absurd as these boys. What they do in their personal lives is none of our business - but they don't have to lie about it. If they think they've done the wrong thing, just own up to it and apologise.

            Member of 'Unwittingly-ies Anonymous'
            Date and time
            May 19, 2011, 7:45AM
            • i was added to this group by a facebook friend without consent. facebook should at least make that more difficult.

              Date and time
              May 19, 2011, 7:46AM
              • "Added to the group without consent" well everyone has to draw their own conclusion.

                Date and time
                May 19, 2011, 7:47AM
                • Wow, 3 out of 8000. What are the damning statistics on other professions - how many journalists are amongst them? And ladies, stop sharing with "friends" if you are not comfortable for the world to see it. Facebook isn't limited to your 300 or so "friends"

                  Melanie Jane
                  Date and time
                  May 19, 2011, 7:47AM
                  • reality bites | Sydney - May 19, 2011, 7:21AM

                    You maybe the smartest person ever, but society is nothing but an exercise in oppression. You seem out of place here.

                    Date and time
                    May 19, 2011, 8:05AM
                    • OMG! Three players! Quick shut down the league its obviously beyond looking at the comments at least it isnt just me who is sick of the tabloid journalism that has recently become the norm regarding AFL where every molehill is apparently a mountain.

                      Hopers Crossing
                      Date and time
                      May 19, 2011, 8:07AM

                      More comments

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                      Related Coverage

                      The seedy side of social networking (Thumbnail) The seedy side of social networking

                      A secret online men's club on Facebook has raised questions over social network privacy.

                      Brocial attitude: they're doing it, I can too (Thumbnail) Why would men join The Brocial Network?

                      Contradictions of the online world allow solitary men to participe in illicit group activities without expecting consequences.

                      North trio 'unwittingly' on network

                      Hamish McIntosh, Jack Ziebell and Robbie Tarrant inform their club that they had unwittingly become members of the invitation-only Facebook group that shares images of scantily clad women.

                      It's too easy to class a footballing culture

                      Juvenile behaviour of the few is hurting reputations of the majority of players.

                      Live blog with Rohan Connolly from noon Thursday

                      Have your say on the week's burning footy issues with Age expert Rohan Connolly.

                      Facebook pulls Brocial Network

                      Facebook managers have banned a controversial group that circulated images of scantily clad women without their consent.

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