BuzzFeed News has been sent two more photos of the anti-gay "Stop the Fags" poster that has sparked a fierce debate over the media's role in reporting the debate around marriage equality during the postal survey.
Last Sunday, Twitter user Dan Leach-McGill posted a photo purporting to be a poster from a US Neo-Nazi forum stating "Stop the Fags" and quoting discredited research about same-sex parenting.
As BuzzFeed News reported at the time, his was the only photo of the poster. City of Melbourne council couldn't find any posters when it checked.
BuzzFeed News was told by a Victorian Trades Hall Council campaigner that organisers had seen and ripped down copies of the poster, as evidenced by an additional tweet from McGill, and a photo taken by Crikey deputy editor Sally Whyte last week.
The media ran with the story. The poster was condemned by opposition leader Bill Shorten, and used as an example in an interview with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull about how the "respectful debate" on marriage equality was "in the toilet".
Ten News went even further, photoshopping a picture of the image onto the side of a bus stop billboard.
Ten was raked over the coals by ABC's Media Watch, but said it was merely a "creative error".
"The poster in question had been taken down when our film crew visited the laneway in question, so we were forced to source a copy online," Ten's director of corporate and public communications Neil Shoebridge told the program.
Leach-McGill contacted BuzzFeed News to confirm it was a friend of his who had taken the photo the Thursday before and sent it to him to tweet. BuzzFeed News verified the date and time the photo was taken by examining its metadata.
The incident led to conservative commentators claiming the whole poster may have been faked.
"Has anyone at all even seen that original poster?" Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt asked on Monday.
The Daily Telegraph's Miranda Devine questioned on Wednesday "if it ever existed".
BuzzFeed News has now spoken to a person who claimed to have taken the original photo of the poster and sent it to Leach-McGill over a week ago. They have provided two new photos that appear to be the same poster in the same laneway.
The metadata on the two photos match the time and date of the original photo. The creases in the poster in the two photos match the original photo, and it appears positioned in the same place as the original poster.
The link in the bottom left hand corner is also covered up in all photos of the poster.
The person who sent them to BuzzFeed News wished to remain anonymous, but said he took the photos before passing one onto Leach-McGill.
While many have been caught up in debating this one poster, a Neo-Nazi group has posted and claimed credit for new anti-gay posters around Melbourne. The existence of these posters has been verified by multiple witnesses who have removed them or plastered over them.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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