Homophobic robots deployed in Australia to oppose equal marriage

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 05: A Tanscorp UU smart robot is displayed at CES 2017 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on January 5, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 8 and features 3,800 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 165,000 attendees. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of automated robocalls in Australia are spreading misleading information during of the postal vote on equal marriage.

Voting is currently underway in the country on the issue of same-sex marriage, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opted to take the issue to a public vote.

So far the ‘No’ campaign has employed a string of tactics to distract from the issue, linking same-sex marriage to ‘radical gay sex education’ and nonsensically branding it ‘transgender marriage’.

It emerged this week that automated robocalls are being made to voters in the country, attempting to convince voters to oppose equal marriage.

The US-style robocalls adopt the premise of an ‘impartial’ poll, before the automated recording recites a statement claiming that “legalising same-sex marriage may lead to negative consequences such as radical gay sex education being taught in school, threats to freedom of speech and freedom of religion”.

March for same-sex marriage in Sydney

(Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

It also asks participants how they feel about whether “denying some people the option to marry is discriminatory and creates a second class of citizens”.

The Guardian reports that shadowy US-based WPA Intelligence, which often works for conservative Republican candidates, is behind the calls.

It is unclear if the polls are intentional ‘push polling’, or whether they are simply testing campaign messaging.

The company’s website says it is a “leading provider of political intelligence for campaigns from President to Governor and U.S. Senate to Mayor and City Council in all 50 states”, offering “cutting edge intelligence to help our clients win.”

The growing use of ‘attack’ robocalls in US elections has been extremely controversial.

Last year a Trump-supporting group used a automated robocall campaign to attack Independent Republican candidate Evan McMullin in the heavily-Mormon state of Utah, falsely claiming that he is gay.

An openly gay Senate candidate in West Virgina also faced homophobic smears from a robocall. The automated call, which purports to be from a 12-year-old girl, targets the candidate’s sexuality, claiming the candidate “only cares about gay activism” while repeating anti-transgender smears.

The ‘Yes’ campaign in Australia has a lead, as ballots arrive.

“Australians have started to receive their postal survey forms on same-sex marriage and our clear message is let’s get this done, let’s vote for fairness and equality, and celebrate achieving this together,” Equality Campaign leader Alex Greenwich said.

Olympian and Equality Campaign ambassador Daniel Kowalski said: “Australians know this is about a fair go for all and allowing people to just get on with their lives with the person they love.

“Marriage Equality takes from no one and makes our country a fairer and more inclusive place to live.

“Australians understand that we are all about a fair go, that is what we love about our country.

“A YES vote is a vote for respect and dignity, it will make sure that all Australians can have the same aspirations in life. Don’t delay, post it today.”