Facebook Blamed For Accused Killer's Name Spreading...

from the free-speech-anyone? dept

Steven sent over a story out of Australia, where the guy accused of a triple murder (an adult couple and their 16-year-old daughter), has had his name "suppressed" by the court, in an effort to keep the jury from pre-judging the guy. However, before that could happen, the guy's name got out and quickly spread all over Facebook, leading some to claim that this is Facebook's fault:
"Because Facebook is such an interactive site there could be tens of thousands of people who have access to the name," barrister Craig Caldicott said.

"It may have a huge impact on justice because a potential juror may have access to that information and opinions that have been published.

"Facebook are in breach of the suppression order -- it's the company who put it out there."
Frankly, almost nothing Caldicott says here makes sense to me, other than the fact that many people might have access to the name. However, I honestly don't see how the name would have impact on justice. A potential juror could know everything about the case -- three people stabbed in their home, etc. -- without knowing the guy's name. How would knowing or not knowing his name make any difference at all? Separately, it's not Facebook that put the information out there, but the users, people in the community who wanted to share that information. The information is effectively public information, and it's silly to then blame a company, because its users are spreading information that is already widely known.

Another oddity in the story is the news that the victims' family had to spend time asking Facebook to take down the name:
Mourning family members and memorial page administrators spent the afternoon trying to delete all references to the man, but his name was public knowledge well before his court appearance.
I don't understand why they should be doing this at all. The name is out there -- and you'd almost think they'd like the name to be out there, rather than trying to hide it. I guess they're afraid that it will negatively impact the trial, but again, I'm at a loss for how the name makes any difference if people already know the actual details of the murder.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:16am

    "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    What an assumption you make! Everything that appears in the press or on Facebook is absolutely true, eh?

    I don't *exactly* agree with the UK habit of hiding names in court cases that are public here in the US (so I've no problem with Facebook here, oddly), but it's a big leap to assume that the *facts* are reported by the press. The only fact is that the press loves lurid murders and plays them up; that's a bit worse in the UK, and perhaps because of that courts also tend to suppress the press more.

    So let's just stick to "innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt", and *always* disbelieve everything you read in the press.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:25am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    But, But, Facebook is the platform! It MUST be at fault!

    Yeah, it's not Facebook's fault, it's the people who decided they'd break the Order made.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:26am

    It won't matter.

    Look - if I was on the jury, I would be 100% unbiased as to his guilt. Now, if guilt was PROVEN, then he should get the very most the justice system can throw at him.

    But just because he's been charged - his name doesn't matter, it's not even relevant - doesn't mean he's guilty.

    The problem isn't Facebook - it's the media. The media is the ones to paint a person guilty or innocent half the time.

    But in the case of Australia, the UK, the US - surveillance, TSA groping, wiretapping have LONG SINCE tossed out any notion of 'innocent until proven guilty' - the justice system has nothing to do with that concept anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:27am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    So it is not true? The name that Facebook display is not that of the person accused of murder? Then what is the problem, if it's some other dude, they're not in violation of any court suppression order.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    ??? What? Assumption? I didn't see that anywhere. And Mike has written multiple times that the medium of information doesn't matter, it may or may not be true. So I don't get your beef here.

    Secondly. How screwed up is Australia's legal system where the victim's family are tasked with suppressing the facts?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:29am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    If you read the article, you'd note that the presence of words like "accused", "alleged", and "charged" rather than words like "convicted" that imply he's been found guilty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:37am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    "people already know the actual details of the murder"
    What an assumption you make! Everything that appears in the press or on Facebook is absolutely true, eh?


    I think you're missing the point. Facebook is being accused of releasing the identify of the person in question, not the details fo the alleged crime. What Mike is saying is that knowing the person's name wouldn't have an affect on the objectivity of people who already knew the details of the murder (through "normal" news channels).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Andy (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:41am

    I don't see why this is an issue. In high profile murder trials millions, rather than thousands, are aware of the name of the accused. This has always been the case, in the UK as much as anywhere else (not that this is a UK story, mind). I don't know why people suddenly think differently.

    I am also not aware that the UK does suppress the names of the accused in trials, except where the accused is a minor. Mind you I have been away for over 7 years, so perhaps Labour changed this while they were in government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Ex post facto?

    "Facebook are in breach of the suppression order - it's the company who put it out there."

    So, what if it had been a newspaper that had published the name of the accused killer before the court ordered that the person's name be kept secret? Would the newspaper have to recover every single newspaper sold? Even in the case where the "platform" takes editorial responsibility for publishing information, such as a newspaper, this still wouldn't make sense. You can't unrelease information to the public. Doesn't Australia have rules against issuing ex post facto decrees? Or is this barrister just (preteding to be) ignorant of the law?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Planespotter (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 6:58am

    Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    Oi, out_of_the_blue..... read the friggin' post again and stop having a pop at the UK when this is happening in AUSTRALIA!!! Anyone would think you have something against us Brits!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Vic, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 7:09am

    I can see a problem if the guy's name is something like Longknife or Imgonnafrikingshootyamate. He's got a case for name suppression then, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Derek, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 7:11am

    Spray paint the accused's name on the side of Barrister Caldicott's home, then threaten him with legal action for announcing the name.

    If Caldicott still doesn't get it, Australia has facilities where people with conditions like his can receive developmental therapy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 7:16am

    Re:

    What good would suppressing the name do, then? You'd still get a jury at trial being told that the case against Stabby McKillyou was sound....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Nina Paley (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Oh just get it over with

    Just ban the internet already. It's causing governments too much trouble.

    Then ban the printing press. Letting People spread gossip and information willy-nilly was never a good idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    Seriously? You couldn't find an instance that would make you look like more of an ass to argue for secondary liability on?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    BBT, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 8:37am

    I can see the proceedings of voir dire now:

    Attorney: Mr. Juror, you are being questioned for potential selection in the trial of Joe Smith for murder. Are you aware that Joe Smith is on trial for murder?

    Juror: Yes, I saw it on Facebook.

    Attorney: Rejected!



    Attorney: Mr. Juror, you are being questioned for potential selection in the trial of Joe Smith for murder. Are you aware that Joe Smith is on trial for murder?

    Juror: Yes, because you JUST FUCKING TOLD ME. It would be hard for me to serve as a juror on this trial without knowing that the trial was taking place!

    Attorney: Approved!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 11:37am

    Talk about whims LoL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    vastrightwing, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 11:41am

    Even if...

    Even if I'm 100% sure body scanners are safe, it changes nothing. So what. Peering into my private space is not OK with me when there are many other ways to screen out the badness. There is profiling, body language, and common sense. I am perfectly willing to fly if tomorrow all the so called TSA agents quit and all the metal detectors stopped working. I would rely on my own profiling ability and my fellow passengers to alert me to a possible problem. The reason is everyone on the plane has the same safety concerns, where the TSA is more concerned about its own power. It is as simple as that. This doesn't mean that we are safe, far from it, but I'll take the risks. I don't want a hi-tech version of the great wall of China watching our every move and making it hard to travel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: "people already know the actual details of the murder"

    When have I argued for secondary liability?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 22nd, 2010 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Even if...

    Think the thread you aimed for must have ducked

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Jake, Nov 27th, 2010 @ 6:51pm

    All this being said, didn't an article on this very site note that one thing the Internet does very, very well is mob justice?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This