A German-based computer programmer has emerged as the source of more than 6000 tweets deleted by Liberal Warringah candidate Katherine Deves.
Many of the tweets, some of which contain vile slurs against the trans community, have emerged in past weeks and now threaten to derail the Coalition’s campaign to retake a seat once held by former prime minister Tony Abbott.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed Ms Deves, shouting down members of his own party to defend his ‘captain’s pick’ for the electorate.
It comes as a senior NSW Liberal source says so-called moderates within the party are “very angry” that Ms Deves is still running for the seat, warning internal polling has “deteriorated” ever since Mr Morrison decided to back his candidate in.
The New Daily can now reveal that thousands of Ms Deves’ deleted posts were published online in early April by a Berlin-based programmer, who used publicly-accessible software to retrieve the tweets weeks ago.
The program scrapes an online archive, the Wayback Machine, for a user’s deleted posts – in this case those of Ms Deves.
The tweets, posted between 2020 and 2022, contain reams of controversial anti-trans statements, as well as erratic comparisons with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
In the latest posts to emerge, Ms Deves breaks with the ideology of her Liberal Party colleagues, suggesting trickle down economics is a fallacy and declaring that Australia is a “socialist” country.
Ms Deves even criticises Mr Morrison in one deleted tweet, saying that the federal government “refuses” to fund domestic violence services.
She also tweeted in 2021 that the federal government “doesn’t even know what a woman is”.
The Warringah candidate had much more positive things to say about Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, tweeting in 2021 that they were “the only party taking political action” on the use of gender neutral pronouns, after the far-right party moved a Senate motion about such language.
Ms Deves has apologised for “language” in the leaked tweets, but has refused to budge on her discriminatory views about transgender rights.
The candidate has proudly described herself as a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) in deleted tweets and said laws to allow trans women into women-only refuges were “the most vicious, vile and grossly dehumanising demonstration of woman-hate in our society”.
Programmer published Deves’ tweets
The repository of tweets has been the source of more than a dozen news articles over the past fortnight – including by The New Daily.
TND discovered the entire archive independently while researching Ms Deves’ posts.
The programmer who ran and posted the script online, Berlin-based Travis Brown, was actually unaware the deleted tweets were being made public, TND understands.
Rather, it was another source who requested that Mr Brown run the script, which was then later published on GitHub.com.
The online archive and the software that anyone can use to scrape deleted tweets is available online, for free, here.
Mr Brown declined to comment publicly when approached by TND on Thursday evening.
The open-source project Mr Brown founded routinely publishes information about Twitter accounts scraped from the web and claims to have a data set of 25 million deleted tweets.
The software utilises an online database of archived web pages called the Wayback Machine, which stores billions of web page snapshots from across the internet, stretching back decades.
Mr Brown has said the project is designed to support activist efforts, including archiving of deleted tweets about Donald Trump’s election fraud campaign and to track far-right groups evading Twitter bans.
Tweets take aim at Biden, Dutton
Ms Deves’ deleted tweets have continued to surface in the media throughout the past week, although there are many thousands more.
In some now-deleted posts, Ms Deves even ridiculed Defence Minister Peter Dutton, comparing him to “Voldemort” from Harry Potter.
In another tweet, reported by news.com.au on Thursday, Ms Deves said US President Joe Biden was “clearly showing signs of dementia”.
Ms Deves also said she’s not a fan of the Biden administration and predicted that Donald Trump will run for president in 2024 and win.
“Trump supports women’s sports for women,” Ms Deves said in January.
Deves’ tweets fracture Liberal campaign
Despite building controversy over Ms Deves’ Warringah campaign, she has maintained the support of Mr Morrison, who said she “would be a great member of parliament” and that he would not let her be “silenced”.
Mr Morrison overruled local branch members to select Ms Deves for the seat, and says he agrees with her views about trans women and sport.
But his defence of the Warringah candidate has fractured the Coalition internally, with moderates driving calls for Ms Deves to be jettisoned.
A senior NSW Liberal source said Mr Morrison is “facing uproar” across the party over his captain’s picks for seats like Warringah, suggesting that disendorsing Ms Deves would have humiliated the Prime Minister.
“[It would have been] open season on his leadership,” the source said.
“The idea that it’s been a masterstroke is just not true; the polling has deteriorated ever since [he backed Ms Deves].”
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean publicly criticised Ms Deves, last week saying the candidate is “not fit for office”.
Citing tweets where Ms Deves compared a legal case in Canada that involved a transgender child to the “grudge trials of the Third Reich”, Mr Kean said her comments were “appalling” and “absolutely disgraceful”.
“This is not a one-off drunken Twitter rant, this is not a statement made at university 30 years ago,” he said.
“This is a series of persistent positions held over a long period and in recent times.”
Deleted tweets that emerged on Friday where Ms Deves railed against Liberal Party economic ideology, including trickle down economics, have complicated her position.
But Morrison says demands for Ms Deves’ resignation are an attempt to “cancel” her – a view that’s drawn criticism from trans-rights activists.
The north-Sydney electorate of Warringah is a key battleground for the Coalition campaign, which is trying to re-take the traditionally very safe Liberal seat from independent Zali Steggall.
Ms Steggall, an independent, toppled Tony Abbott for the seat in 2019.
Ms Deves’ tweets, which she deleted before being announced as the Liberal candidate for the seat, now threaten to derail her campaign just weeks into the race.
Last Sunday Ms Deves told SBS she has moved to a “secret location” after receiving death threats over the controversy.
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