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back to article Facebook digs in over Jill Meagher page

A Facebook page dedicated to directing hate at an accused murder has sparked a legal row in Australia, after Facebook declined to take down the page despite Police appealing for its removal. Victorian Police last week arrested Adrian Bayley over the rape and murder of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation employee and Irish …

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Anonymous Coward

Mistrial

These facebook morons have to understand that a trial can fall apart if the jury is found to be unduly influenced, possibly letting the accused off the hook.

As well as that, it is, in principal, possible, that the accused is innocent. Wrongly convicting him would hardly be justice for the victim.

Let’s hope that they can find jury members intelligent enough not to use facebook.

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Re: Mistrial

That's as maybe, but it's essentially no different from a foreign news website like the BBC having similar prejudicing material on it or the TV stations in another country doing it. It's not in your country, it doesn't have to deal with your laws so tough shit. You may not like it but that is the World we now live in. It has it's pluses (Governments not being able to cover shit up as easily) and its minuses (speech is free-er than some might want or like).

I'm not quite sure how you prejudice the jury in the trial of a man who (allegedly) abducted and murdered a woman, was captured in the area on CCTV, and once arrested, took them to her body in a shallow grave 40km away that he obviously didn't just stumble across whilst walking to get his paper. It strikes me there's evidence and he's trying to co-operate.

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Re: Mistrial

Mark .. the nature of a trial is that the decision you have just come to on the basis of the evidence that has been presented to you (presumably from a reliable source) must be made in a court based on the evidence submitted to that court. Even though you may be correct and your sources impeccable there is the faint chance that they are slightly biased and the full evidence hasn't been presented (which is the job of the defense).

The media are good at making judgements but thank god our justice doesn't yet rely on trial by media. The UK justice system (from which the aussie system is probably derived) is particularly sensitive to 'trial by mob' which is why it is a possibility that a Facebook page that only presents one side of the story, if widely publicised, could result in the prosecution of the individual failing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mistrial

Bill, I am afraid that this is just a coverup of magnificent proportions of a justice system that has failed the people.

1. The local newspapers, including The Age, making allegations that he committed other crimes for which he has not been charged (this is wrong).

2. The local newspapers have made it clear that he is a repeat offender.

3. He has been named repeatedly in the press as being the person charged with a new crime.

4. His body is shown in digital images, much clearer than fuzzy newspaper photos, so using that plus the identikit of the Dutch tourist's rapist plus court artist drawing it's amusing to read that somehow showing a photo is going to prejudice the community further.

That is, he has been clearly identified both by name and image and has been accused of lots of things for which he is not standing trial.

If he did it and if he was convicted then given the past treatment he'll be on the streets before he is 50 and be given the opportunity to do it again.

If there was a mistrial perhaps the full truth (currently supressed) may finally be revealed once more. The public might get upset with our politicians for not doing enough to protect us. If this happens then perhaps they may even legislate something to protect those among us who don't happen to live in the leafy suburbs like they do. Once can only hope...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mistrial

You're forgetting a tiny, minuscule but very important detail of our system of justice, one that newspapers should also remember:

EVERYONE HAS THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE UNTIL JUDGED GUILTY IN A COURT OF LAW.

Got that? No? Than read it again until it penetrates. I know that trial by media and mob is very popular these days, but that is not how the legal system works, and for good reason. I am all for convicting those who commit crime, and happy to help string them up - but only after rigorous and precise following of due process so there is clear evidence on the table. No shortcuts, no quickies "coz' 'e'z a terrorist" or because it's politically expedient to quickly convict someone - let's get back to a position where laws and right enshrined in the declaration of Human Rights get to do their work. Let's not forget that the media NEED someone to hang because that's how they sell papers - "we got it all wrong and the guy is innocent" typically never makes it out of the classifieds unless compelled by a court order (usually as part of a defamation suit).

You have to disconnect from the mob politicians want you to be part of and learn how to think for yourself again. Even here - the evidence may be compelling, but guilt is not established in the press or in the pub over a beer.

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Headmaster

" facebook morons" = rendundancy

"have to understand" = contradiction

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Unhappy

I really hope Facebook sees sense in this... The police aren't asking for the removal of political commentary, but rather standing by long standing traditions that have effected the press in common law countries for centuries to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial, no matter how much of a scum bag they may or may not be.

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Anonymous Coward

"long standing traditions"

How different is this to any rag-mag who posts a front page article calling out a "creepy teacher/landlord" as the murderer.

Yes, I know that was a British tabloid on a British case but it happens all over the world...

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Megaphone

Re: "long standing traditions"

Well I don't know about the British at this point in time, but I do know that Australian courts will often order the media to withhold information (up to and including the NAMES of the parties involved) while a trial is ongoing in order to prevent potential jurors from being prejudiced.

Free speech is a wonderful, but we're not yanks and we recognise sometimes other matters temporarily outweigh free speech... such as the right to a fair trial, for everyone.

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Re: "long standing traditions"

@tkioz: Trouble is you can only request this happens in your jurisdiction.

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Re: "long standing traditions"

@Mark 65

Yeah, and only Australians sit on juries in Australia... And anyway in the vast majority of "judicial censorship" it's a temporary matter for the duration of the proceedings, so asking for things to be taken down until justice has run it's course isn't a big deal, hell I'd be perfectly okay if Facebook simply blocked it for Australian or Victorian IP addresses.

Given how big tech companies will bend over backwards for truly oppressive dictatorships around the world I'm honestly shocked why a simple request for something with a valid reason is such a big heal.

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Anonymous Coward

I really hope Facebook sees sense in this

Facebook -> US company -> profit trumps any pesky local laws -> fat chance.

It would be a first if a large US company would not try to avoid compliance with local laws if it gets in the way of their profits. God knows how much money they make from the ads on those pages..

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Facepalm

"rendundancy" = fat fingers fail

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Anonymous Coward

Silicon Valley Nerds think that "free speech" trumps "right to a fair trial".

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Contempt

I'd be interested to see what happens if Facebook is found to have acted in contempt of an Australian court.

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Re: Contempt

"I'd be interested to see what happens if Facebook is found to have acted in contempt of an Australian court."

That should be Contempt For a court that is attempting to issue an overbroard ban on the Facebook pages. If the request (ie: Censorship Order) were to block display (and prevent addition comments) by users with Australian IP Addresses then IMO there would be some plausible justification to impose this ban. I am not living in Australia and am not a potential juror so a total block on the messages (thus preventing me from seeing them or commenting) is going too far. Preventing potential jurors from seeing the messages is one thing, preventing anyone from seeing them is another.

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Stop

Re: Contempt

Jurors are members of the public too.

I didn't say I hope this is what happens, just that I'm interested to see what happens, and I would be very interested if such a thing does indeed happen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Contempt

The police have asked for the page removal, not the courts. Until the courts ask (and Facebook will comply with a court order) Facebook can not be in contempt.

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Re: Contempt

I thought that it became contempt automatically when pejorative comments were published after someone was charged with an offence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Contempt

> I thought that it became contempt automatically when pejorative comments were published after someone was charged with an offence.

Those creating the page and posting comments might be in contempt (I don't know enough enough about Aussie law regarding this) but Facebook wont be since it is just a service provider and not responsible for what other people say or do. They will only be in contempt if a court orders them to remove the pages and they then refuse.

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Gold badge

Re: Contempt

Not in Oz but in the US; so they really won't care one way or another IMHO..

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This post has been deleted by its author

This post has been deleted by its author

Two faced?

Facebook are more than willing to censor stuff they don't like despite the evidence of the harm that they cause, so why do they take exception to this request? Anyway, I thought that hate posts were against their TOS.

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FAIL

Another damn Nanny State

The British disease seems to be spreading, the government protects you from cradle to grave.

What next?

Censorship of any kind, for any reason, is bad.

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Re: Another damn Nanny State

The "censorship" of which you speak has been in place for a long time. It is there to help the accused to a fair trial with a jury untainted by media reports (often coloured by editorial policy) or other influences. It is the same "censorship" that operates in many territories around the world where justice is not decided simply by the fact that someone is accused (and therefor guilty).

It is always sad to see the fans of "Social media" and "car crash TV" whining about their rights to spread their own take on events in which they took no part and have no first hand knowledge and to trample over the processes which have been long established to ensure as far as possible that every accused gets a fair trial with a verdict rendered by an biased and untainted jury .

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Re: Another damn Nanny State

Sigh.

It's not a Nanny State issue. It's a matter of two freedoms (the right to freedom of speech and the right to a fair trial) being incompatible with each other.

Ordinarily, the right of free speech is secondary to the right of a fair trial. One is a temporary infringement of a right - the other may affect a temporary - or permanent - infringement of liberty.

A statement like "censorship of any kind, for any reason, is bad" is just an indication that the person who has made the statement has made no attempt to think it through.

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FAIL

Well if people were not aware of the page the Streisand Effect will now be in full force practically guaranteeing everyone will see it.

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FAIL

Not So

Fits being aware that some one has said something to someone does not mean you are aware of the contents of whatever was alleged to have been said. I have not seen nor am ever likely to see the page(s) in question as I never look at bum book. I am sure that there would still be a reasonable prospect of finding a jury able to judge the evidence honestly, if only by confirming that potential jurors had more sense than to use that antisocial site.

I expect that the unwise and judgement free will always open their over sized but under brained mouths, just look at the usual brain dead suspects who praised the shooting of police and others recently.

Oh, on another point JaitcH, objecting to law breaking and the disruption of justice is not an argument in favour of censorship, though your 'contribution' speaks richly of your own limited understanding and judgement.

I presume from your offering you are in favour of securing miss trials?

Oh JaitcH score another point for your racist posting.

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Re: Not So

> bum book

Oh you're a card you are. Have you considered a career as a comedian?

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Re: Not So

Richard, you make an good point, but unfortunately you fail to take into account opinion tainting. As an evil bastard once said "repeat a lie often enough and people will believe anything".

Pop quiz, is there more crime today than 30 years ago? If you ask most people, educated, reasonable people, they will tell you yes, it is worse... when in fact crime has dropped drastically in the last 30 years (in Australia at least). Their opinions have been tainted by the media, who cover far more crime then they did 30 years ago, people are exposed to more information about it, and thus perceive it to have gotten worse, when it's gotten better but they hear about it more often.

People can try and set aside bias (and face it, everyone is biased about everything, they are people after all) but the more they've been exposed to something, the deeper their bias is, even if it's a slight inclination towards believing the worst of someone accused of a crime that has gotten a lot of media attention.

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Joke

Trial by FaceBook

Likes = Not guilty

Unfriends = Guilty

Crowd source it to the whole world.

No more expensive legal eagles!!

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FAIL

One asumption too many?

The article, and most of the comments here, seem to be making the assumption that it will be impossible to find 12 people who are not signed up to facebook . Despite the media stories indicating the opposite, I think you'll find that most people are either not signed up to facebook, or did so then got bored with it and no longer use it.

Even those who do use it, most will have not seen those pages.

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Go

Re: One asumption too many?

So to continue the logic, being a facebook user means you can avoid jury service.

That is the first reasonable argument in favour of joining facebook that I have seen.

Remember - you saw it first on El Reg.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: One asumption too many?

Its not just the first hand user of the brain death that is social media... there is the jurist who has a friend who read this on bumbook so it must be true.. and bumbook users..... and their friends who have that mindset are (sadly) much more common than you may think.

But then that is the way of some people - " I read it on the inetrnet so it must be true".

Even TV news has checks and restrictions on what it can report

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Unhappy

Another one too lazy to do his civic duty?

"So to continue the logic, being a facebook user means you can avoid jury service.

That is the first reasonable argument in favour of joining facebook that I have seen."

You sir, are another example of societal disintegration. So, as well as dodging jury service, do you also fail to vote and cheat on taxes?

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Alert

simple answer

Australian government issue a directive to block access to Facebook in Oz.

That'll make Zuck sit up and take note, Bitch !

What if, just what if, they have the wrong man?? he is ruined forever now.

bet if you stuck up a few hate pages on Zuck himself, it would be gone within minutes.

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Re: simple answer

@Seanie Ryan

You've hit the nail on the head. Trial by public opinion is becoming a very big problem. Increasingly judges and police are refusing to release the names of defendants in "sensitive" cases (mainly ones sexual in nature) for just that reason, what if they got it wrong? He'll be forever tarred.

But when service providers ignore legitimate requests from authorities they make a mockery of it.

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Coat

Facebook

has been tightly integrated into the media scene here downunder. The government broadcaster, the ABC, mentions FB and Twitter every five minutes. Official ABC policy, I need to add, is to not promote private services, brands or companies beyond launch of what may be seen as a worthwhile enterprise. Exceptions are made for these data-mines social media. News bulletins and most other programmes promote the twin horrors their darlings incessantly. Socially, failure to have active accounts with them, let alone expressing doubt about the wisdom of recording so much chatter forever, is seen as queer. Whilst I'm happy to concede that some use them in legitimate and even productive ways, there is a huge amount of hateful sniping between users which has driven some people to madness ( in your country too, eh ? ). Ms Meagher's murder ( dreadful but hardly without precedent ) has bought a number of IT related subjects to the fore. Calls for extension of CCTV coverage were immediately met with an admittedly-probably-nugatory-but-very-speedy commitment from the Victorian government of 3 million dollars for that purpose. Only a few civil rights lawyers have raised any doubts about this. The matter of FB postings about the accused is one which must be addressed. I wonder if plans of the plutocracy might be upset if they take action against the occupants of what has been created - an elephant house in the media room. I hope a court requires them to take action. Promptly.

YOU ! Get your hands out where they can be seen !

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FAIL

Receiving a fair trial should always trump free speech.

If I had any power there should be no reporting allowed for any potential, current or on-going (appeals) trials.

Once someone has been found guilty and exhausted all recourse, then possibly the media horde and get in.

Though even then I rather tell tell them to politely Foxtrot Oscar.

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