'Trial by social media' in Australia prompts clash over accused murderer

Friday 12 October 2012 @ 11.12 a.m. | Crime | IP & Media

Australia's attorneys general have formed a task force to consider social media regulation and possible law reform following an online outpouring of grief and anger, in a murder case that has highlighted both the strong benefits and sharp risks of social media reporting on criminal investigations and prosecutions.

The country's chief lawmakers held an urgent meeting last Friday (5 October 2012), to discuss the disruptive effects of social media, which Australian legal experts fear could threaten the successful prosecution of a man accused of raping and murdering a popular ABC employee.

Meanwhile, a magistrate has issued a suppression order on publication of prejudicial content about the man charged with the murder - including on the social web. In applying for the ban, his lawyers pointed to posts on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs which they argued incited hatred against their client. Lawyers representing news publishers opposed the ban which, in an unregulated social media environment, may prove futile. But the magistrate indicated that she felt duty bound to defend the criminal justice process despite acknowledging that this is a "new world."

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