Facebook and MySpace today confirmed they were removing some sensitive content about accused Victorian arsonist Brendan Sokaluk from their sites, following public requests from the Victorian Police.
Facebook groups were ... showing my client's photo and calling for his torture and death
Lawyer Julian McMahon
Sokaluk is accused of starting the Churchill-Jerralang fires in Gippsland which killed at least 11 people and has been charged by police on several counts.
Deputy police commissioner for Victoria Kieran Walshe earlier today said the force was enquiring whether blogs and postings on social network sites about Sokaluk could be removed, in line with the ban on publishing certain details about him.
"We don't want anything to take place, we don't want anything to be done, that might jeopardise a fair trial down the track," Walshe said.
A MySpace representative said Sokaluk's account had been suspended, but not cancelled. "In this instance, MySpace is working closely with Victoria Police and has suspended the accused's MySpace profile pending the outcome of the police investigation and any court determination," David Batch, MySpace Australia's director of safety said in a statement.
His profile was taken down because it was in violation of MySpace's terms and conditions, said Batch — namely clause 7.1 that states: "MySpace may reject, refuse to post or delete any content for any or no reason, including content that in the sole judgment of MySpace violates this agreement or which may be offensive, illegal or violate the rights of any person or entity, or harm or threaten the safety of any person or entity."
An Australian Facebook representative confirmed the social networking site had removed some content relating to Sokaluk, but didn't comment more specifically or on any relationship with the Victorian Police. Instead they said: "We will remove groups reported to us that are found to express hatred or threaten violence towards people.
"We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss issues and current affairs, while respecting the rights and feelings of others," they added.
Meanwhile, at today's hearing to determine whether the media ban on showing Sokaluk's image should be lifted, his lawyer Julian McMahon said threats had been made against Sokaluk on Facebook.
"Facebook groups were ... showing my client's photo and calling for his torture and death," he said. "There have been ... threats made to one other family member at least that I'm aware of."