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Sky News launches TikTok with anti-trans, vaccine-sceptic host

Sky News Australia has launched a TikTok account — and has tapped an anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine climate sceptic to be the face of the network.

Since 2019, News Corp Australia’s television network Sky News Australia has built an enormous digital presence on platforms like YouTube and Facebook off the back of its opinion video content. Now, it’s got its sights set on the newest tech behemoth, TikTok and it has picked up reactionary millennial Carla Efstratiou to be the face of its account.

Earlier this month, the network quietly launched a TikTok account sharing clips of public figures like politicians and celebrities, excerpts from its opinion programming and some original content. 

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Much like the channel’s YouTube videos, the vast majority of the TikTok videos are about international culture war takes on topics like Joe Biden and Meghan Markle. Many of the account’s captions eschew an objective news tone for an outright partisan voice. 

A video from Andrew Bolt’s show talking about Meghan Markle is captioned “The irony of a privlidged (sic) TV presenter calling out the queen for colonialism she never comitted (sic)”. Another video of Kamala Harris speaking is captioned “Secure border? It was more secure under Trump and you want to get rid of the wall.” 

The account’s original content comprises editorial monologues from Efstratiou. 

Efstratiou has frequently appeared in the media as a small business owner and as a young conservative. In 2012 she wrote about how she was a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal voter and Alan Jones listener with a picture of Margaret Thatcher next to her bed and a crush on Malcolm Turnbull. In 2014, she earned the ire of the triple j audience by saying there’s no reason to be homeless and arguing against spending money on the environment.

Now in her early thirties, Efstratiou launched a TikTok account called @gowokegobrokeaus (naturally) where she riffed on news with her reactionary views. With just more than 11,000 followers — a reasonable but not enormous number — Efstratiou seemed to mostly evoke criticism and rebuttal from TikTok audiences. 

Some of her previous videos include:

  • Sharing anti-trans views including falsely claiming that men can’t give birth, criticising companies for giving gender affirmation leave, that Medicare should pay for her lip fillers if they pay for gender affirmation procedures, that men in Spain would begin to identify as women so they could access menstrual leave, and praising Scott Morrison for standing up for transphobic Liberal candidate Katherine Deves. 
  • Echoing anti-vaccine rhetoric by sharing videos saying that “something doesn’t add up” about daily COVID-19 death tolls that had more vaccinated people dying than unvaccinated, questioning why there are “so many” booster shots, and proudly saying that, while having gotten her original vaccines, that she won’t ever get a booster shot.
  • Calling COVID-19 restrictions like lockdowns and vaccine mandates “completely unnecessary” and saying it’s the “biggest corruption in history”.
  • Saying that LGBTQIA+ people don’t want equality but “superiority”.
  • Claiming that there’s no gender pay gap, but instead women are paid less for a variety of reasons like not working in “scaleable industries”. 
  • Reposting a Jordan Peterson clip criticising climate action advocates as pushing for change to address their “existential terror”. 
  • Defending Australia’s asylum seeker policy by saying that Sri Lanka’s entire population would want to come here if not for the boat turnback policy.
  • Saying that low unemployment means that there’s no excuse for people not to have a job and blaming people’s unemployment on their inability to spell in TikTok comments.

Far from toning down her views — which wouldn’t be out of place on Sky News’ Outsiders show — Sky News Australia has brought her on board to replicate her lo-fi, unpolished videos on their channel. 

On the Sky News Australia account, Efstratiou has said that Lisa Wilkinson shouldn’t cover the queen’s funeral because of her husband, Peter FitzSimons, and his links to the Australian republican movement; called Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi “dumb” for saying that Queen Elizabeth II was the head of a racist empire; and slammed Lizzo’s promotion of body acceptance as “promoting unhealthiness”.

Neither Efstratiou nor Sky News Australia responded to Crikey‘s inquiries.

Notably absent from Sky News’ TikTok debut is their original, Australian news content. Key network figures such as Kieran Gilbert, Andrew Clennell and Laura Jayes are nowhere to be seen. 

Sky News’ early returns are promising. The network’s account nearly has 7000 followers already, with a handful of viral videos of repurposed clips from their television hosts and from Efstratiou’s original content, in less than two weeks. 

The network was able to grow enormous YouTube and Facebook audiences by pumping out emotive culture war content at scale targeted at international reactionary right-wing audiences that had the veneer of the respectability of a cable news network. On TikTok, it appears they’re repeating that strategy yet again with a young, TikTok-native conservative at the top.

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Gina Rushton

Gina Rushton
News editor

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