I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the members of the Free Speech Union for their unwavering support and kindness during a challenging period I recently faced.
I go by the alias “Momo,” and I am a senior hospital doctor who had my anonymous Twitter account exposed by a Stuff reporter to my workplace. I maintain an anonymous Twitter account not out of concern for my personal opinions but because, as a Te Whatu Ora (TWO) employee, I am not permitted to be politically active publicly. Despite these restrictions, I have used this account for over 11 years as a valuable tool for understanding various topics, staying informed, and engaging with a global community.
However, my troubles began when I got involved in a dispute over a tweet regarding a gentleman denied entry to a Perth pub due to his Maori facial tattoo, which covers half his face. I commented that such a practice was cultural but not applicable in Australia, and my comment was perceived as aggressive. This, coupled with an older tweet in which I criticized an iwi for withdrawing support for the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary, led to accusations of racism. As I had also retweeted well-known academics debating gender issues and condemned violence at the Posie Parker protests, I was unjustly labeled as transphobic.
Things took a dire turn when a troll account somehow discovered my real name and workplace, leading to an unexpected call from the Head of my Department, who was also my Twitter follower. The situation had escalated to the point where TWO had been asked for a comment, and I received counsel from our Chief Medical Officer to contact my insurers and the senior doctors’ union. Unfortunately, TWO’s statement, when released, was entirely unsupportive and deeply disappointing.
Things took an unexpected and aggressive turn when Jody O’Callaghan, a senior journalist at Stuff, sent me a text with an incredibly tight three-hour deadline to respond. Shocked by her approach, I consulted a King’s Council and other media contacts, all of whom advised me that there was little I could do to prevent the story from running. My only course of action was to mitigate the damage after the story’s release.
Feeling helpless, I penned a farewell message to my Twitter followers, unsure of what the future held. My family was aware of my distress, and my husband, equally upset, provided unwavering support.
My eldest child, just 11 years old, sensed that something was amiss when I called in sick due to stress. She even asked if I was dying or if our marriage was ending. It was incredibly challenging to reassure her that neither of those dire scenarios was happening, and she continues to inquire about the situation. The toll on my family was undoubtedly the most painful aspect of this ordeal.
I had not previously heard of the Free Speech Union, but I reached out to a fellow Twitter follower, Ani O’Brien, for advice. She connected me late on the Sunday afternoon with Jonathan Ayling, who listened attentively, requested information, and promised to be in touch. In the ensuing hours, he sent an email for my approval.
With little left to lose, I decided to stand up against the unfair and unbalanced portrayal I anticipated in the media. The Free Speech Union’s call to arms was dispatched, and it marked a turning point. The story was subsequently dropped following the emails from members of the Free Speech Union.
I extend my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who reached out and took the time to write to Jody O’Callaghan and her editor on my behalf. I also want to thank my Twitter friends, my real-life friends, and my family for their unwavering support throughout this ordeal.
Lastly, a special thanks to Ani, Jonathan, and Stephen for their invaluable assistance during this critical time. Your support has empowered me to stand up against bullies, and I will forever be immensely grateful to you all.
With heartfelt regards,
When I first spoke with “Momo” last week, I was reminded of the very personal cost that intolerance and censorship have.
I am sorry that she had to go through this experience at all, but so grateful that together, you and I, and thousands of others, were able to come in and support her.
Do you think a change of Government will make cases like this disappear? I’m afraid not. Those who came after Momo weren’t from Parliament. There are lots of others bullies like them still out there.
We’ve got our work cut out. But together, we’re making headway.