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back to article Facebook, Twitter, ordered not to spoil MURDER trial

The Deputy Chief Magistrate in the Australian State of Victoria, Felicity Broughton, has ordered Facebook and Twitter must remove material that may prejudice a murder trial. The future trial of Adrian Ernest Bayley will be watched with exceptionally keen interest in Australia, as Bailey's alleged crimes – the rape and murder of …

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Gold badge

A prediction

These sites will ignore the request, pompously reminding everyone that they are US-based, but within the next decade local politicians in the other hundred or so jurisdictions around the world will have had enough of this and will have put in place the legal and technical means to block these sites.

Yes it will be fairly easy to bypass, but it will be illegal and even then (as now) 95% of people won't actually know how. The big names will lose 95% of their global customers and will complain bitterly about how UNFAIR it is that these wicked foreigners are resorting to bully-boy tactics.

Earth calling the internet-tards: either you allow yourselves to be regulated by local laws or you will be outlawed in those jurisdicions. Right now you are on borrowed time. When even democracies are having serious political battles about how to build national-scale firewalls to keep you out, you know you're doing something wrong.

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Flame

Re: A prediction

Interesting. First time I've heard such unqualified support for government control over speech.

Of course, this particular case is slightly different to normal, as we're discussing contempt of court / prejudicial publication, which is not, and should not be a form of protected speech.

But the notion that we should happily wave through government "regulation" of what people normally say ona days to day basis online? Really? You might be happier in China or Iran. I can't say I would be.

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Bronze badge

Re: A prediction

The UK has the laws in place to do the blocking already...

Not to mention, 'freedom of speech' in Europe is a qualified right - ie. it comes with restrictions. In my view, this is the right way of looking at it. Rights come with responsibilities and the responsibility not to abuse those rights.

Going into a cinema and shouting bomb or something like that needs to be illegal. Publishing lies and abuse about someone should be illegal. Both could be claimed to be 'freedom of speech'...

The point is, the line between protected speech and disallowed speech is drawn in a different place in different countries - who are you to disagree with the line drawn by this part of AU?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A prediction

He does have a point, though.

There is a need to find a way to make international organisations follow local laws. What is happening here is the prejudice of proper legal process by organisations that feel they are above the law in Australia, and I think that is wrong. If you want to play in a certain market, you have to stick to the rules of that local market. If cannot, you should be stopped from profiting from that market.

Otherwise I see no argument whatsoever why a Far East replicator cannot sell DVD and CD copies - same thing. In their country it's not illegal to replicate and sell, so why should they be stopped elsewhere? All they do is follow their own laws.

FB, Twatter and other US companies are breaching the sovereignty of a state to follow its own laws and actually harming processes that have their foundation in Human Rights(*), and it's seriously time that this is stopped because the main culprit has long seized to be the bastion of democracy and humanity its Hollywood advertising agency is selling it to be. It's a recurring issue with some USA originated businesses, somehow they seem to be brought up there with the idea that being American means you can just ignore what happens abroad - including the law.

If that solution is blocking, so be it. I am *seriously* not a fan of that, but what choice does a nation otherwise have? To me, this is partly a diplomatic issue - the US should be wise enough to ask such companies to play ball with local laws. FB is a business that concerns itself mainly with stealing and reselling people personal details, similar to that other outfit, Google. Both use being "USA" as an excuse to disrespect local laws, and both do not seem to have learned from having their fingers burned. It's almost as if they consider being fined not a reason to follow local law, but more as the cost of doing business with "aliens". Not that the level of fines helps, btw, they need to get above petty cash to have an effect.

(*) On that topic, did you know that the most widely globally accepted Convention, the Convention on the Rights of a Child, has not been accepted by only two countries? One is Somalia, the other one is ... the USA.. Makes it kinda hard to claim to be a leading light in Human Rights, no?

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Flame

Re: A prediction

> The UK has the laws in place to do the blocking already...

Note for ordinary everyday speech, it doesn't. Only for sites who can be proven to exists for the primary purpose of facilitating or committing an offence.

> Going into a cinema and shouting bomb or something like that needs to be illegal. Publishing lies and abuse about someone should be illegal.

And they are.

> Both could be claimed to be 'freedom of speech'...

No they couldn't. Inciting a public order problem, defamation and harassment are not forms of protected speech under any human rights legislation. Nor should they be. Ditto contempt of court / prejudicial publication.

> The point is, the line between protected speech and disallowed speech is drawn in a different place in different countries - who are you to disagree with the line drawn by this part of AU?

I guess it is no more my business that my concern over the great firewall of China, or free speech limitation in Iran, etc. I can be concerned, but it is ultimately up to citizens of the country to take the lead in fighting such measures.

What surprises me is your willingness to be regulated. You seem to be starry eyed by the idea the social media in Australia could be effectively shut down in your country by legislation. You WANT it to happen. That is tragic.

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Flame

Re: A prediction

If I understand your argument correctly, I think you are saying that Syria, Libya, Egypt government were right and justified to seek to block Blackberry, social media, etc when the people rose up against their oppressive regimes.

And, presumably that China is right to block certain website which discuss ideas which it does not like its people to know about, or which tell a different narrative to the official line.

I'm guessing that's what you're saying. Or are you saying it is only OK if Western governments do it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A prediction

If I understand your argument correctly, I think you are saying that Syria, Libya, Egypt government were right and justified to seek to block Blackberry, social media, etc when the people rose up against their oppressive regimes.

And, presumably that China is right to block certain website which discuss ideas which it does not like its people to know about, or which tell a different narrative to the official line.

Ah, a familiar line of flawed reasoning.. We are talking here about a company making a profit from breaking the law and in the process prejudicing the rights of an individual under trial. Your argument seems to be that breaking the local law is a-OK as long as the excuse is good enough. You want to play in China, you have to play by their rules. Don't want to play in China or don't like what happens there, don't be a hypocrite and simply pull out. *You* have a choice, but you have no right to impose a choice on others. You can help someone in an oppressive regime but you must accept that that WILL be illegal, and you WILL face penalties for it.

Following your line of reasoning I can take you off the road next time you drive anywhere in Europe over 70 mph. After all, that is the US national speed limit, no?

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Re: A prediction

Like it or not the "wild west" era of the Internet is comming to an end. The original poster is right. Once it becomes technically possible to do so governments will block the websites of companies that refuse to comply with their laws in order to enforce court orders.

The popularity of Facebook and twitter actually makes this outcome more likely. An obscure website publishing material that might damage a prosecution is one thing, when it is a very high profile website with millions users its quite another. Image the backlash against Facebook in Australia if the defence of the alleged murderer is able to convince the courts that he will not get a fair trial.

An alternative to blocking websites would be something like extradition treaties where the signatory countries would agree to inforce court orders across national boundaries where appropriate.

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FAIL

Re: A prediction

> We are talking here about a company making a profit from breaking the law and in the process prejudicing the rights of an individual under trial.

Ok, we have one or two assertions to deal with here:

"making a profit from breaking the law" - No it isn't, although some its users may be breaking the law, Facebook does in fact comply with local law enforcement where this occurs. They also prohibit criminal activity in the Terms of Use, and have even been reported to be actively policing for some types of criminality.

"prejudicing the rights of an individual under trial" - I don't know how many times I have to say this before it sinks in: I have no problem at all with enforcing contempt of court legislation and seeking to do so on social media as well. But the realistic fact of the matter is that people WILL talk about public court cases, be it online or offline. The important principle in contempt of court legislation is to ensure that such discussion does not enter a realm where it becomes accepted as widespread fact, and thus prejudice due process. I'm not at all convinced that this is achieved by asking Facebook to remove all references to the case. In fact, I'm fairly certain that such a request is impossible to implement effectively.

> Your argument seems to be that breaking the local law is a-OK as long as the excuse is good enough.

No. My argument was simply that just because occasionally the needs of due process and the power of social media clash, it doesn't mean that we should routinely regulate and/or block social media. People talk about high profile court cases in the pub, but we don't routinely regulate that kind of speech. As has been pointed out elsewhere, it will be easier to keep jurors from seeing FB than to keep this kind of content off FB altogether.

> You can help someone in an oppressive regime but you must accept that that WILL be illegal, and you WILL face penalties for it.

Agreed. I don't see how this equates to an argument for increasing controls on social media. Precisely the opposite, in fact. Why should we all be seeking to emulate those oppressive regimes? Shouldn't we be broadly welcoming to free and open discourse online?

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Coat

Miss Type

That should be anti-social media.

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Understatement by the radio station

The radio station labelled those two online efforts cyber-bullying, which sparked a further round of online protest.

Just add pitch forks and torches and it's a lynch mob.

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Re: Understatement by the radio station

Something Jones has made a career on radio out of doing. I have three words for Mr Jones: pot, kettle and black.

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Facepalm

Options for preventing bias in trial:

1) Prevent a dozen or so people from reading something

2) Prevent 6 billion people from saying it

Let's see here...

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Anonymous Coward

Comparison

Traditional media is to social media as democracy is to mob rule.

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Re: Comparison

You say that as the UK is awaiting the report of an investigation into routine corruption, abuse of power and interference with government and law and order by the mainstream media. Activities which were largely exposed by whistleblowers.

May I humbly submit that puttiing the power of publication in more people's hands is ultimately going to prove preferable to allowing to remain the hands of only the Rupert Murdochs of this world.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Comparison

May I humbly submit that puttiing the power of publication in more people's hands is ultimately going to prove preferable to allowing to remain the hands of only the Rupert Murdochs of this world.

Why not start with making everyone actually COMPLY with existing laws and fine the cr*p out of them if they don't? Laws exist for a reason. In addition, abolish the concept of a company being a legal identity - a crime is never committed by a company, but by the people within it - and if you cannot find the precise person (because they had Arthur Andersen doing the shredding), the man at the top automatically gets it in the neck. No more hiding behind clever constructs, no more setting other people up to hang for profit - jailtime for those who pull the strings.

The only problem is that that may put a fair amount of politicians behind bars too, so it'll never happen..

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Flame

Re: Comparison

So basically what you're saying is that democracy and accountability is a top-down process from government through law to the people, that rather than a process of empowering the people to speak up with social media, etc, etc, we should instead keep them quiet, and trust that government regulates the licensed press appropriately?

You know what I think? Those MSM institutions are kept far more honest by everyday people who fact-check their stories and publish blogs about them, by the Fleet Street insiders who report on what's really going on via Twitter and blogs. By collective action empowered by social media.

But feel free to go back to your 20th century press barons if you like. Just don't spoil my century with them, please.

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Alert

Clash of rights

So which is more important for individuals, the right of freedom of speech or the right to a fair trial? The US Constitution vs Magna Carta. There is a way out, but it requires the release of someone who may (or may not) be a murderer - and the right to life is thereby weakened (Declaration of Independence).

Not a great choice really...

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Silver badge

Re: Clash of rights

I'm not sure that it is quite as simple as you put it, but in the spirit of open debate, I plump for the right to a fair trial.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clash of rights

Actually, both have their foundation in Human Rights.

The question I would ask is that of harm. What harm would it cause to shut up a bunch of Farcebookers and Twatters for a couple of weeks, versus harming due process in a legal case that will decide someone's future life?

I'd call the former more a relief, and the latter unacceptable in a democratic world that respects someone's right to a fair trial. IMHO not a hard choice. I find the screeching about "Free Speech" suspect - FB and Twitter are not media outlets, but setups that make a profit mainly from breaking privacy laws across the globe and sell advertising with the result. I don't see harm to free speech, but to profit..

I'd fine the lhell out of them for breaking local laws if I could, but that's exactly the issue - as soon as profit is threatened they become "American". Not acceptable IMHO.

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Silver badge
WTF?

Lack of media coverage of Gillard's feminist character assassination of Abbott?

What. The. Fuck.

Every fucking major news outlet carried the story front page for three days straight. You'd think Abbott was an evil woman-hating psychopath from the way she carried on. And these feminazis still aren't satisfied? What do they want, to burn him at the stake?

I'll be voting for Abbot now on fucking principle.

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WTF?

Who remembers the Landlord of a murdered woman who wans named and vilified for weeks in the media - on the grounds that locally he was considered a bit of an odd-ball... and thus had to be the murderer - only to find that in fact it was the murdered womans boyfriend who did the dirty deed? Where were his rights?

Social media operators - along with the press and electronic journalistic media have to be responsible about reporting cases, I'm all in favour of less sensationalism trials The endless daily reports by grim faced journalists outside of courts does NOTHING for the judicial process.

Better to have a blanket embargo on reporting to stop the hysterical Jeremy Kyle type trials by media.The great unwashed have a chance to participate in justice - its called Jury service. Justice is not served by opinions and hearsay posted along with the boring minutiae of their dreary existence, and can contaminate a jury's deliberations once you get the random airhead who says "Oh I read on arsefaceplace that he....."

There is a place for justice - it is in court, not on arsefaceplace or in TV news.

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Anonymous Coward

Amen to that.

I don't quite know how we ended up with arbitrary idiots and companies assuming they have the right to override the law, but I think it's taking worrying proportions. Anonymous is acting as judge and jury, online activists just DDoS sites they don't like, people's details are splattered all over the planet the moment they become an interesting story to tell or have their t*ts bared, and someone under suspicion becomes convicted by media as soon as someone in the press doesn't like the cut of his clothes.

Does anyone actually remember the principles of democracy and law and why we have all these processes? It's like the lunatics have finally taken over the asylum, and in many countries the politicians are actually cheerleading this. Unbelievable.

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Big Brother

Funny how the law-and-order types mysteriously disappear when their rights are impinged upon by other countries' copyright laws, isn't it?

The other essential element here seems to be not the trial but that people detest Facebook and twitter (Arsefaceplace! How clever! How biting!).

That's well and good, but so many posts in reversed situations (particularly if it involves the US doing something like Australia is) are opposite that it leaves little room for explanations other than hypocrisy.

When those laws require the monitoring of small forums so that El Reg has to comply with deleting posts (or case-by-case filtering to different IP ranges?) based on the wildly differing laws of 50 countries and dozens or hundreds of requests from each, will you shout your support, too?

Giving governments control over what you say - online, in print, or in a pub; eventually technology will render them equally subject to technical regulation - is a very, very dangerous thing to do. Now it's prejudicing a murder trial; do you wish to be silenced when it's a copyright infringement case as well? It's the same basic idea. Or it certainly will be to politicians who are bankrolled by media companies after the door opens.

Be careful what you wish for. Any law or policy used for good can and will be used for evil (garbage can snooping justified by terrorism laws comes to mind).

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