Proposal … Victorian Attorney-General, Robert Clark.THE Victorian Attorney-General, Robert Clark, will lead a group to create national guidelines on social media after fears that comments on Facebook and Twitter could jeopardise the trial of the man accused of killing the ABC journalist Jill Meagher.
Australia’s attorneys-general met in Brisbane yesterday – the day of Ms Meagher’s funeral – to discuss social media’s impact on the right to a fair trial.
The standing council on law and justice agreed to Mr Clark’s proposal for a working group, which will comprise mainstream and social media representatives, judicial officers and police.
The group will make recommendations on how to regulate the spread of prejudicial material on social media, including warnings for users (which courts and police could issue on Facebook or Twitter) and protocols for social media companies.
It will also propose directions that courts can give to juries on social media, examine laws that detail juror offences and assess what research was needed to determine how social media affected jurors’ decisions.
It is unknown when the group will start working.
The NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said the group needed to develop protocols with international social media companies to ensure they comply with local suppression order laws. Such companies needed to comply when the state ordered them to remove potentially prejudicial material from their websites to prevent damage to criminal trials.
The working group was formed hours after the Victorian Police Commissioner, Ken Lay, savaged Facebook, declaring that it incited hatred and undermined the state’s legal system by hosting pages that could prejudice the trial of the man who allegedly raped and murdered Ms Meagher.
He said Facebook’s arguments about why it could not remove the pages – some of which call for the accused, Adrian Ernest Bayley, to be executed – were ”a nonsense”, and that the company lacked a sense of social responsibility.
It was reported this week Facebook had removed the pages, but Mr Lay said it was the creator of the page who did.
”To me it’s just a nonsense that someone who is sucking an enormous amount of money out of the community isn’t prepared to invest in that community by helping it stay safe and act in an appropriate manner.”
Mr Lay said the pages in question were ”offensive garbage” and police and MPs were working on ways to force Facebook to remove offensive pages on request.
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