Labor demands Facebook remove 'fake news' posts about false death tax plans

Labor has demanded Facebook investigate apparent "fake news" posts claiming the opposition is planning to introduce a "death tax" on inheritances, in the first major test of the social media giant's promise to crack down on false election material.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

The posts and messages shared via Facebook messenger incorrectly claimed Labor had signed a covert deal to bring in a 40 per cent inheritance tax and carried a link to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's website, though the Liberal Party said it was not behind the posts.

"Labor, the Greens and unions have signed an agreement to introduce a 40 percent inheritance tax," the crudely written message states.

"Everything you own cannot go to your kids or next of kin at death 40 percent goes to the govt. Please share this with all your friends."

A truck spotted around the ACT displaying political advertisingreferring to Labor taxes - clearly authorised by the Liberal Party. Photo: Supplied

A truck spotted around the ACT displaying political advertisingreferring to Labor taxes - clearly authorised by the Liberal Party. Photo: Supplied

Separately, the Canberra Liberals authorised an advertising truck that has been driving around the nation's capital that bears the slogan, "Labor will tax you to death" and includes an image of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, although it does not specifically say Labor wants to introduce an inheritance tax.

Labor's campaign headquarters wrote yesterday to Facebook warning that the rapid proliferation of the posts on Thursday and Friday could taint the federal election.

"I would like to raise serious concerns about a number of apparent fake news posts about 'Labor's death tax' circulating on Facebook very rapidly over the past 12 hours and its possible implications for the Australian federal election," the letter states.

It said that "multiple, various accounts" were posting the false claim and that there also "seems to be an orchestrated message forwarding campaign about the issue".

"These claims are false and it is not Labor's policy to introduce a death or inheritance tax."

It called on Facebook to investigate and remove the material.

The US-based social media giant has vowed in recent weeks to strengthen countermeasures to stop fake news and advertising, particularly from foreign sources.

The discovery of the inheritance tax posts came as the world digested the 488-page Mueller report into Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election through tactics that included fake news.

The posts about the Australian election carry a link to a press release issued by Mr Frydenberg in January that said Labor's assistant treasury spokesman Andrew Leigh had written an article in 2006 - when he was an academic - favourable to introducing an inheritance tax.

A Coalition campaign spokeswoman said it was not behind the fake posts, adding that all Coalition material was authorised, as required by electoral law.

"The Facebook messages and posts in question have not originated from the Treasurer's office or the Coalition campaign headquarters," she said.

The press release from January was "factual", she said.

Some Facebook users were posting the claim, however, and pointing to Mr Frydenberg's press release as evidence it was true.

The Canberra Liberals' advertising truck that says "Labor will tax you to death" was authorised by the party's Arthur Potter. It states that "Labor will tax your rent, your car, your home, your retirement."

  • SMH/Age
This story Labor demands Facebook remove 'fake news' posts about false death tax plans first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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