Research (Insikt)

Malign Narratives Oppose “the Voice” Ahead of Australia’s Referendum

Posted: 28th August 2023
By: Insikt Group


In this report, Insikt Group examines false information surrounding the possible creation of a new advisory body in Australia’s parliament, the “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice” (also known as “the Voice”) — this false information overwhelmingly opposes the Voice and the actors spreading it are very likely seeking to manipulate or influence voters to vote against the proposed change to Australia's Constitution in a referendum scheduled for sometime between October and December 2023.

Online manipulative content is primarily produced by conspiracy theorists, political activists, and extremist groups such as the National Socialist Network and Patriotic Alternative. Additionally, the Communist Party of China (CCP) is reported to be involved in an ongoing disinformation campaign seeking to amplify divisive narratives about the Voice. Notably, state-sponsored information operations from Russia and Iran were not observed targeting the Voice.

Five key malign influence narratives have emerged against the Voice. These narratives claim that the Voice will lead to racial segregation, is part of a Jewish plot, aims to establish communism, invites a globalist invasion, and introduces an "aboriginal tax". These narratives are promoted through various channels, including alternative news sites, social media platforms, and video-sharing platforms.

malign-narratives-oppose-the-voice-ahead-of-australias-referendum-body.png (Left) Screenshot of the Telegram channel Aboriginal Voice Exposed; (Right) A post on the Telegram channel Aboriginal Voice Exposed, published on June 21, 2023, which received over 9,000 views

The potential impact of these false narratives is concerning, particularly when amplified by political figures and media personalities, potentially influencing voters ahead of the referendum. As the referendum approaches, official announcements and events associated with the Voice will likely provide more content for malign influencers to exploit. If the referendum passes, the resulting advisory body will likely remain a target of online manipulative content.

To counter these efforts, a comprehensive approach involving both the government and private industry is recommended. Publicly identifying and refuting false information, raising awareness among business executives and public figures, and proactive monitoring of information sources can help reduce the effectiveness of malign influence narratives. This report underscores the importance of maintaining information integrity and countering false information to protect democratic processes.

To read the entire analysis with endnotes, click here to download the report as a PDF.