Police In Tasmania Explain To The Public That Someone Saying Something Mean Online Is Not Illegal

from the sign-of-the-times dept

We've seen it over and over again: some people seem to think that if anyone says something you don't like about you online, it's illegal, and you can go after them for it. Of course, in most places that's not even close to true, but it doesn't stop some people from trying. Slashdot alerts us to the news that police in Tasmania are so fed up with people coming to them about things they don't like online that they've put out a statement telling the public to stop contacting them whenever they find something they think is "abusive or harassing" on Facebook or other social media sites. They specifically state that they have no interest in censoring the internet:
"If the conduct complained of would not amount to an offence if it occurred off-line, then it is not an offence simply because in a particular instance it was undertaken with the aid of digital technology," the department noted.

"For example, complaints have been received about comments posted on Facebook which are abusive or harassing. If this behavior occurred in a public place it would not be a reportable offence.

"It is not the role of Tasmania Police to censor internet content."
My first thought was "good for them" for putting out such a statement. But, my second thought was to be surprised that so many people go to the police about such things. Perhaps it's a cultural difference, but here in the US, they'd just threaten to sue (or actually sue) in the courts directly, rather than seeking criminal charges that would involve law enforcement.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 7:08pm

    Well, given the proximity, I'm not that surprised after the whole iiNet circus. If the content providers followed suit with the ISPs in the general region, this is the logical end point where people start developing a sense of humor and a thicker skin. Now, if only courts/lawyers on this side of the planet gave out similar advice... bah, I'm sure the result of that would be a decade of fearful lawyers and a bunch of very angry and clueless lawsuit-happy people not being drained of money fast enough.

     

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

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 8:50pm

    "It is not the role of Tasmania Police to censor internet content..."
    (Left unsaid for PR purposes):...or act as tax payer funded referees in your incessant drama-whoring.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 8:55pm

    wrt law suits here: if you lose, there's a very good chance you'll end up paying costs - for both sides. that tends to cut down on the stupid.

     

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  4.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 8:56pm

    "It is not the role of Tasmania Police to censor internet content."

    Which in English means, We have not received the stacks of cash the entertainment industry is so liberal with elsewhere and are feeling slighted.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:01pm

    Re:

    Aren't you going a little overboard here? This doesn't look like it has anything to do with the entertainment industry.

     

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  6.  
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    Khaim (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Legal Costs

    If only US law worked like that.

     

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  7.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:29pm

    Re:

    These compalints from the general public are NOT about copyright disputes or alleged IP breaches they are about them not liking what someone posts online be it on Facebook page or other social media.

    I am quite pleased with the Tassie Police's statement to the effect of "if you're butthurt and it doesn't constitute criminal harassment.. grow a pair and get over it"

    We have too much stupid politicians and other "hugfest" organisations waffling on and on and on about cyber bullying, how hurt boo boos are emotionally damaging for adults or children, or other perceived wrongs of stupidity in this country (Australia) currently.

    Lets hope other States take Tassies policy on board and educate the people who should know better that police are for criminal offences ONLY and if you so badly want to enact 'justice' on someone who has wronged you, put your money where your mouth is and take costly (especially if you lose) civil action or STFU!

    Though if the alleged harassment does rise to the level of criminality then yes the police will investigate and prosecute if there is enough evidence.

     

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  8.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:31pm

    Re:

    the other thing is, here at least, if it's worth going to court over, odds are very good that one party has massively more resources than the other.

    in NZ, the small stuff goes to the disputes tribunal (doesn't even get in front of a judge unless you can't resolve it and the mediation becomes arbitration (or whatever the word is) and/or one party or the other fails to follow through on the resolution. and then it's for that failure, not the original issue.) bigger stuff, well... again, if it ends up in court, odds are good that you, as an individual, are probably dealing with an entity with substantially more resources than you. at which point, if it's worth bothering with, it's worth going to the police and having the Government pay for it, generally.

    (basically, if it's not worth doing that way, there's probably a process in place that'll let you resolve it without draining your bank account and losing because you can't afford the lawyers fees...)

    this probably isn't very coherent. i blame the flu.

     

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  9.  
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    Chargone (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:33pm

    Re: Re:

    i'm guessing the issue here is general public ignorance as to where the line between 'annoying' and 'criminal harassment' is, really.

     

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  10.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yep that and the constant media (current affairs type 'ratings are everything' shows and talkback radio) making out that low level bullying (which is going to happen no matter what), name calling, opinion that you don't like, and other assorted "OMG Why aren't they doing something - for the children" stupidity, is somehow the worst thing that can happen to anyone or society and that the Police, Government or some higher authority MUST do something for the good of the few.

    That and because anyone who wants to take defamation suit against anyone needs at least to start $40K (or more for a good barrister) for civil courts.

    Though they could just try to place Apprehended Personal Violence orders (restraining orders that are CIVIL only in nature) [in the state of NSW this is] on the alleged miscreant in local magistrate courts (can do it pro se) as long as they understand it can only be towards an individual and not group/organisation and that the respondent has full procedural fairness to confront accuser and can counter them.

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Jul 17th, 2012 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Legal Costs

    You need Tort reform before anything like that will work in the whole of the USA, though California, Georgia and Texas have something similar in the 'loser pays' system.

    Just as long as it is an equitable reform and doesn't go to far in the other direction.

     

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  12.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jul 18th, 2012 @ 7:16am

    Involving Law Enforcement

    But, my second thought was to be surprised that so many people go to the police about such things. Perhaps it's a cultural difference, but here in the US, they'd just threaten to sue (or actually sue) in the courts directly, rather than seeking criminal charges that would involve law enforcement.

    Mike, have you missed the recent stories of people calling 911 because their fast food order was wrong? Yes, right here in the US - not just one, but at least 3 I can remember.

    This is a global (or at least western) thing about involving whatever authority you can if someone has "wronged" you in any possible way.

     

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


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