This post will be of interest to quite a few readers who have been on the receiving end of death threats, threats of harm, and other abuse from supporter of the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, Frank Vazquez of Paralowie, South Australia. More broadly, we’ll see some of the problems one might encounter when attempting to have those who send death threats held legally responsible for their actions.
Publicly available image courtesy Facebook 2015
Frank Vazquez is a well-known anti-vaccination conspiracy theorist who is infamous for making bomb, arson, and death threats against those with whom he has disagreements. He operates under several Facebook profiles which appear and disappear according to the flow of his paranoia:
Over the previous two months I have been liaising with South Australia Police after I lodged an Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) report. From the outset I will say that the SA Police have been wonderful with this investigation, given the limitations enforced upon them.
There are two sections under the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 which would apply to most instances of online abuse and death threats:
471.11 Using a postal or similar service to make a threat
Threat to kill
(1) A person (the first person ) is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the first person uses a postal or similar service to make to another person (the second person ) a threat to kill the second person or a third person; and
(b) the first person intends the second person to fear that the threat will be carried out.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years.
Threat to cause serious harm
(2) A person (the first person ) is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the first person uses a postal or similar service to make to another person (the second person ) a threat to cause serious harm to the second person or a third person; and
(b) the first person intends the second person to fear that the threat will be carried out.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 7 years.
Actual fear not necessary
(3) In a prosecution for an offence against this section, it is not necessary to prove that the person receiving the threat actually feared that the threat would be carried out.
(4) In this section:
“fear ” includes apprehension.
“threat to cause serious harm to a person includes a threat to substantially contribute to serious ” harm to the person.
And the second section:
474.17 Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:
(a) the person uses a carriage service; and
(b) the person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 3 years.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), that subsection applies to menacing, harassing or causing offence to:
(a) an employee of an NRS provider; or
(b) an emergency call person; or
(c) an employee of an emergency service organisation; or
(d) an APS employee in the Attorney-General’s Department acting as a National Security Hotline call taker.
With the threats made against myself and my family the SA Police first needed to get the go-ahead from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). The CDPP agreed that they would prosecute Vazquez’s death threats against myself and my family, should the SA Police satisfy the usual hurdles: the various profiles must belong to Vazquez; the profiles must resolve to Vazquez’s IP addresses; there must be a log of the comments made at the times shown in the evidence presented; and, the threats must pertain directly to myself and my family. The evidence against Vazquez follows.
December 2013 – October 2014:
May and June 2014:
I will address the above items, first, before we continue with others.
One of the limitations faced by SA Police – to which I alluded, above – was me. I left it too long to report these older threats. This is my fault. I did not address these threats earlier because of a previous demoralising, condescending experience with NSW Police, who belittled previous reports I had taken to them which pertained to sustained abuse being heaped on bereaved parents by anti-vaccine trolls. I didn’t want to go through that again.
Although we know these threats came from Vazquez we could not directly link his IP address to these messages, at the precise time they were sent, as Vazquez uses a mobile phone to administer his multiple profiles. Mobile phone data is only kept for a couple of months by Internet Service Providers. I simply left it too long.
On October 1 2015 – at the exact moment my ACORN report landed in South Australia – the anti-vaccine Facebook page, Refutations to Provax Memes – which is administered by troll Ian Hastings of No Fluoride Australia – posted a meme which was intended to incite anti-vaccination activists into action against Ken McLeod, Reasonable Hank, and Peter Tierney. Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists believe that I (RH and PT) am Ken McLeod, Peter Bowditch, Rosalie Hilleman, Maureen Chuck, Anne Blake, Courtney McCarthy, and several other names. And, as you can see by the times in this screenshot, Hastings got the desired effect. Vazquez bit:
In fact, Vazquez the internet detective thought he’d step it up a notch. I have pixelated all of these images. This is the post he made which appears in the above image:
Vazquez, who had been escalating his rhetoric again for some months, then sent me another series of private messages on Facebook, on October 4 2015. Vazquez was now including Ken McLeod and Ken’s wife in the death threats. First message:
Got us [Got youse]
U evil twisted son of a cunt enjoy looking over Your shoulder 247 cunt
Your poor wife
The CDPP did not consider these threats to have been made against me, personally. Even though they were sent to me, and these conspiracy theorists believe Ken McLeod and I are the same person, these threats also fell short of the required evidentiary standards.
One other death threat which I sent to SA Police – which was made against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the anti-vaccination group, Anti-Vaccination Australia, on December 2 2015 – is, I believe, still under investigation by a separate authority having been reported by others:
Only the previous day, in the same anti-vaccination group, on December 1 2015, Vazquez made these threats against Bill Gates:
I’ll include more of Vazquez’s threats against others at the end of this post.
So, that is the end of my current episode with Frank Vazquez. I couldn’t publicise this until now.
So, what do we do if confronted with death threats and abuse from this point on? Report it immediately to ACORN. It really doesn’t take that long to lodge a report. It will be taken more seriously than my previous disheartening experience with NSW Police. The longer you leave it, the more likely the required data will no longer be available when demanded under warrants.
And, remember, there are now precedents set for prosecution under the sections of the Criminal Code Act 1995 noted above. In a notable case, lawyer Mariam Veiszadeh took the brave step of standing up to online abusers with a successful prosecution against one of them, in 2015.
Vazquez’s collection of threats.
June 18 2013: local council officials
September 6 2013: No Fluoride Australia in agreement with Ian Hastings
January 9 2014: AVN Facebook page
March 31 2014: death threat against Dr Paul Offit and family on the Facebook page of the National Vaccine Information Center
July 2014: threats against Tanya Plibersek Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs
July 30 2014: death threat via private message to Martin
January 2015: various death and bomb threats, and accusations of paedophilia, against many people on Michael’s Restaurant Facebook page
January 2015: arson threat against Kareela Golf Club
January 2015: death threats against then-PM Tony Abbott at the time of the Sydney terrorism siege, on the Lindt Cafe Sydney Facebook page
January 2015: threats against Katrina
January 2015: threat against Alec
January 2015: threat against Brian
January 2015: threat against Xandy
January 2015: threat against Natalie
January 2015: against Allison
January 2016: threat against Allison
February 2016: threat against Ken McLeod, sent to Graeme for some reason
September 2016: threats against Rob, made in a paralegal group
I will add to this list as images come in.
For more on the incitement of violence and the escalating violent rhetoric of the anti-vaccination and anti-fluoridation movements please see Beware the violent antis – Lismore Mayor physically assaulted – updated, which features an abridged history of the sustained campaign of abuse and vilification of health activists, journalists, and politicians, by people such as Ian Hastings, Meryl Dorey, Barbara Loe Fisher, and Sherri Tenpenny.
See also Tristan Wells of the AVN calls for the execution of vaccine workers.
All those walking dead!
And all of those mentions of lady parts he’ll never be granted access to.
As for death threats, I’ve had quite a few over the past few years, being doxed twice. Once, with a threat to myself and my entire family and being in the US, there is a significant risk of firearms being used.
Well, I never did react well to threats and I explained that if that individual did enter my home without permission, he would depart in two body bags. I also have firearms, am retired military and I am a competition shooter.
I’m afraid he was taken aback and ceased all further communication, much to my delight. I didn’t bother calling law enforcement, as the risk wasn’t all that great. He lived in a distant city, I have quality locks and excellent situational awareness and would notice someone approaching when outside.
Well, that and we relocated as part of a company paid relocation.
I’m a bit like a firetruck and the threatener is a dog, they can chase that firetruck, but if they catch it, they have no idea what to do with it.
Gosh. This guy really needs some psychiatric assistance. I’m not saying that to incite him or anyone else. I honestly feel he is unwell.
Well done for reporting him.
Can’t believe the profile pictures of this guy with children. poor kids.
Frankie can’t help being Frankie. Every time he is interviewed by Police he takes it as a vindication of his anti vax stance. Maybe a few years inside where he can get the help he urgently needs in spelling and grammar might turn him into a more coherent opponent.
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I am somewhat bemused – how is it possible that this character is not locked up somewhere? Surely no-one in their right mind would consider a bloke like safe to be out in the public? Are we waiting for him to actually make good on one of the death threats?
A total Whack job ! how is it that this guy is not in prison ?? scary guy who threatens politicians and does not get punished wow there’s a 1st. Is it just me or do other people see that this guy Frank Vazquez has severe mental health issues ? p.s. i think he uses Steroids also maybe causing him mental problems.
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I just found a lovely missive from Mr. Vazquez in my “other” inbox, if you’d like to include it.
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Hey RH, cheers for including my most recent threat from Frank Vazquez, I have a few dozen more similar screenshots from comments and messages received from him over the last 3 years if you want to add them to this page. This started because of my legal references asserting that the pseudolegal myths he subscribes to have no validity in law. Subsequently, I am apparently working for the Illuminati as a “paid shill” disinformation agent, as I hear on a regular basis.
Sure thing. You can email them to my Gmail address on my ‘comments/testimonials’ page.
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Does Australia have any laws that would require involuntary commitment? This behavior sure does qualify for that.