Magda Szubanski was targeted in a coordinated right wing extremist attack online following her Victorian government COVID-19 ad, according to the eSafety commissioner.
Szubanski had reprised her role of Sharon Strzelecki from Kath and Kim in a TV ad, playing netball on her own and wearing a face mask to encourage people to follow health advice.
“Playing netball against yourself is not all it’s cracked up to be,” Sharon said in the ad.
“But you know what? It’s not the lockdown that’s the enemy.
“It’s the virus. And as soon as we obey the rules the sooner this will all be over and we can get back to the stuff that really matters – netty!”
Szubanski was then subjected to continued online trolling and abuse.
That ramped up after TV chef Pete Evans posted about the ad, calling it “offensive and disgraceful” and accusing it of “brainwashing” children.
During Senate estimates late on Wednesday, the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the trolling of Szubanski and lawyer Nyadol Nyuon was part of an increase in what she called “volumetric attacks”.
“What we’re really seeing a lot of is what we call volumetric cross platform online abuse which is coordinated by ostensibly white extremists [and] conspiracy theorists,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“The whole idea is to create an avalanche of hate directed towards specific targets, usually women or those with other intersectional factors.
“The volumetric attacks on Nyadol Nyuon, who is an African Australian activist, as well as Magda Szubanski in the wake of her public service announcement around wearing COVID masks, were all coordinated right wing extremist attacks.”
After the trolling, Szubanski declared she wouldn’t be deterred from using social media.
“Troll me much as you like I am NEVAH gonna close my Twitter account,” she wrote in a post that is still pinned to the top of her Twitter.
“Bring it COVID deniers – let’s see what you got. Let’s bring you right out into the sunshine. Let’s see your real names. And your real facts.”
Commissioner Inman Grant said the agency was tracking right wing movements and conspiracy theorists.
“In the wake of the Christchurch atrocity we were given a substantial set of new powers around abhorrent, violent material but also some powers around ISP blocking in the event of an online crisis,” she said.
“Many of the events we had to assess in the last year have involved right wing extremism including the Halle terrorist attack that happened on Twitch, el paso and others.
“We’ve of course been following things like Q-Anon, the (far-right) Boogaloo movement and some of the right wing extremists here in Australia.”