Sex abuse survivors lose archive as Facebook removes news from 'life saving' site
By Rhiannon Shine
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
February 18, 2021
|Richie Scutt says news articles shared by his Facebook group have helped people come forward to police.|
Photo by Charlotte Hamlyn
|Richie Scutt runs sex assault survivors Facebook page 'Survivors and Friends'.|
Photo by Charlotte Hamlyn
A survivor of clergy abuse who started a Facebook group to help other survivors says he is "devastated" by the social media giant's decision to block Australian news.
Richie Scutt, who was sexually abused by an Anglican priest when he was 11 years old, started the Facebook group Survivors and Friends in 2016.
He said he started the group to share news reports on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and it became a lifeline for many.
Mr Scutt said the group had grown to around 200 members from across Australia and still primarily shared news stories.
He estimated more than 2,000 news articles had been shared to the Facebook group since 2016, and said he was devastated to find they had all disappeared when he logged onto Facebook this morning.
Facebook today blocked access to news for Australian users in response to proposed laws that would mean it pays publishers for use of content.
Survivors and Friends became one of many independent community groups inadvertently impacted by the move.
"Survivors may see a news article and it may be their only way of knowing 'hey, I was also abused by this particular offender'," he said.
"We have helped people to come forward to the police, we provide peer-to-peer support and we have advocated to Parliament and within churches — and this is all based around discussions that are linked to media stories that are coming through."
'Five years' work disappeared in a second'
Mr Scutt said it would take many months to rebuild the archive of news stories.
"We [posted stories from] right across the spectrum from small country newspapers to the ABC, The Guardian, The Australian and Fairfax.
"I was devastated. I saw five years of work disappear in a second.
"I thought about all of the survivors and their families out there.
"I thought about the fact that suddenly it is going to be more difficult to reach out to people.
"And sometimes what we do is life saving."
Community groups affected
Facebook's decision also initially blocked access to pages like 1800Respect, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology.
Access to some of these pages were gradually being restored, but Mr Scutt said he was not sure whether his Facebook group's shared news stories would be among them.
Mr Scutt said the group would look to launch a website where they could collate news stories.
"We will keep on doing what we are doing, but just not with Facebook," he said.
"You are talking about people who rely on having access to news.
"It doesn't just affect us, it affects all small community groups who are trying to make a difference."