Community Facebook page Vic Deals accused of 'silencing' minority voices but allowing racist content

The admins say they do not condone racism.
The admins say they do not condone racism. Photo credit: Getty

The administrators of one of New Zealand's largest community Facebook pages are being accused of silencing minority voices while allowing racist content to remain public - but they say they don't condone racism in any form. 

Wellington Facebook group Vic Deals has more than 151,000 members - it's the go-to place for Wellingtonians to find out what's happening in the city, trade second-hand goods and offer community advice - but Safari Hynes says there's a much more sinister side of the page too.

Hynes told Newshub he first realised there was a problem when a post he tried to share about colonisation kept getting deleted - and then he was blocked from the page. 

Safari's original post.
Safari's original post. Photo credit: Facebook/Safari Heynes

"There was no explanation - I messaged four of the admins but they didn't respond," he said.

Frustrated, Hynes created his own spinoff group Dic Veals, which quickly gained traction - more than 5000 new members have been added in 24 hours. 

As members began to pour into the alternative group, Hynes saw his experience was not isolated. 

Other people said they had experienced poor behaviour from admins. Screenshots of previous admin posts showed them using derogatory names for Māori , making fun of lower socioeconomic areas in Wellington and allowing comments which contained racist and homophobic slurs.

One screenshot posted showed dozens of comments by members of Vic Deals containing vicious slurs.

The person who compiled the collage said it took them "less than ten minutes" of scrolling to find all the examples.

Another screenshot showed an admin posting a picture of the bat signal with the caption "In Wuhan this means dinner time".

People from Hynes' alternative page began to try and resubmit his post about colonisation - anyone who tried was blocked and deleted without explanation. 

Hynes says the double standard of censoring his post, while allowing overtly racist content didn't sit right with him.

"It's concerning that one of the region's biggest online forums was being controlled by people who held such double standards and was happy to silence minority voices without explanation."

Vic Deals briefly archived the page on Monday night, citing "threats to [the admins] personal safety".

Hynes says it's not for him to comment on the allegations, but he and the other admins do not condone the behaviour.

The admins of Vic Deals did not respond to multiple requests for comment but have posted a statement on the page saying they do not condone racism.

"We have endeavoured to minimise any issues by deleting comments that may cause upset or lead to in group fighting over the current levels of racism within NZ," wrote one of the admins on Tuesday morning.

"We do not allow racism of any sort in this group and as stated in the rules you may be muted, deleted or banned from the group."

Hynes says it's not his place to comment on whether the statement posted is doing enough to combat racism on the page.

"It's for people now to decide whether they are comfortable participating in a forum that so openly silenced indigenous, people of colour, other minorities and ally voices."