Where’s the line?

Social media has severely blurred the line between acceptability and liability. Since the advent of social media, users have been encouraged to vocalise their every opinion, speculation and otherwise censored views. But the detriment of this practice is often underestimated by the social media populace. In fact, it is very easy to ignorantly violate the law, especially when it is in such a public forum. The case of the abduction, rape and murder of Jill Meagher has been surrounded by a massive media coverage and also a large social media presence. Apparently, Jill Meagher was mentioned every 11 seconds on Twitter and Facebook this morning the 28th of September. Furthermore, CCTV footage before she disappeared was viewed 7500 times in the two hours after it was released and a myriad of tribute Facebook pages have attracted thousands of likes.

However, more disturbingly, after a man was accused of this crime, a more macabre Facebook hate group against the man charged was created, which has also received thousands of “likes”. The views projected around this case are very subjective and could potentially interfere with the course of justice, which would be committing sub judice as innocence is presumed and the jury may be prejudiced. In fact, the Victorian Police posted:

Of course, freedom of expression should be maintained, but the content on social media needs to be moderated as this information, and highly partial opinions, are ubiquitous and could really violate the proper course of justice. As Andrew Heslop of the ABC said “Effectively, everyone is an ignorant and stupid shock jock sounding off their ill-informed and prejudiced opinions. Or pedalling gossip. That is the danger of social media.” In fact, the idea of defaming the accused is rather ironic. Specifically, when one argues that he is a monstrous murderer who needs to be locked away, they are giving the accused defence lawyers a reason to say that a fair trial cannot be conducted. So in an effort to have the man charged locked up, the could set him free. Therefore, it is paramount that a line is established, which defines the acceptability of comment on news events as the outcomes of engaging in this practice can actually have the opposite of what the author intended.

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