MySpace, Facebook block arsonist info

MySpace, Facebook block arsonist info

Summary: 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 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."

Topics: Government AU, Social Enterprise

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Media conspiracy

    One thing I've noticed about the all the bushfire news stories on Australian news sites is that every single story, on every single news site, has comments disabled. This is the first bushfire story I've seen on an Australian news site that has allowed its readers to comment.

    Go check for yourself. Go to any bushfire story on ABC news,, SMH, The Age, Herald-Sun, any of them - and see if you can leave a comment. Now go to any non-bushfire related story: any of the sites that allow comments at all will allow them there. But don't mention Sokaluk or the bushfires, because your comment won't be published.

    This systematic silencing of the Australian public voice on this subject absolutely stinks, and as a result I have cancelled any and all subscriptions I had to all Australian news services, print or digital.

    So now that I've FINALLY been allowed to leave a comment on a bushfire news story since Sokaluk was arrested, let me just say this: Isn't it interesting that he was caught with "child pornography" on his computer? What was it, a Simpsons cartoon as well? The whole thing stinks of media railroading: Let's make him into a paedophile to make sure he gets found guilty, and lets make sure nobody can publicly comment about this strange coincidence! After all, Terrorism and Paedophilia are the current tools of statecraft in the politics of fear. And now, it seems, so is the selective allowing of the Australian public to air their views through the news channels.

    If anyone should be hanged, it's the bastards controlling the mainstream Australian media.
  • Finally, they take some responsibility

    There is a lesson for new media operators here. The websites (Facebook, Myspace) were finally held to account - and could still face harsh penalties - for allowing illegal material to be published. They should have screened the comments, which major media outlets have done for some time.

    The same should go for P2P operators who allow works breaching the law (copyright infringements, illicit material) to be published.

    Just because `it's technology', it doesn't excuse publishers from responsibility.
  • Are you serious?

    Firstly I agree with Steve Roper. Our media is a complete joke determined on spewing out patriotic manipulative crap. I doubt people even remember that news is objective (supposedly) while A Current Affair and TodayTonight have already made their decision on what they want the public to think. I wouldn't be surprised if the 'child porn' thing was completely blown out of proportion. As you said terrorism is tool also used by our government to enforce more power to themselves and cut the rights and freedoms of the public through scare tactics.

    To the Devil's advocate I have to say I don't agree at all. It would be impossible for Facebook and MySpace to screen every comment before posted. Anyone with half an idea of the size of these social network sites would understand this. Why should they be held accountable for what the general public has written. They have done the right thing by cooperation with Police while still trying to protect the rights of Freedom.

    As for P2P software companies, they have merely created software which allows you to share files. Because you share the DVD/CD you just ripped is that their fault?
  • Not practical

    The whole idea of "peer-to-peer" is that there IS NO central "operator" who can "allow" or "not allow" anything. Sure, there's people writing the software, but all the P2P networks are largely compatible and so if you take down one program, three more pop up in it's place.

    Also, did you know there is currently around 175 million active members of facebook? There are 850 million photos uploaded to the site EVERY MONTH. How is it practical for anybody to filter that?


    News outlets have it easy. They've got a couple dozen or so news stories a day, and maybe a thousand comments total (if you look at the abc website, for example). Notice how most new outlets have a "flag comment" (even this website does) link? Essentially, they're relying on the public to screen them.
  • Censorship?

    Censorship doesn't solve anything.
    Supporting censorship as in the filters that aus gov want to implement is just gonna be same as what the Chinese government is currently doing to their citizens.

    Also illicit material only is illicit depending on the person reading it. Therefore how can you determine whats illicit and whats not?
    People keep saying porno is illicit, however in some cultures sexual acts is considered as being good.
  • allows comments on all its stories
  • P2P

    There's no doubt that something needed to be done when family members were starting to be threatened. But it's hard, almost impossible to pinpoint the source of this problem. Steve Roper's, "media conspiracy" definitely raised a few eyebrows but can we really blame the media for reporting the news in a way that stirs the most conversation? Even if it were the infamous "bart shows his weiner" scene. That's something news stations have been doing since the early beginnings. Should we blame the publishers for not monitoring every single thing that is passed through a "social networking" community while honoring privacy agreements and maintaining a non-''Big Brother" reputation.
    For more, check out my blog that I'm working on for a school assignment,
    I would be stoked if some of these ideas could be introduced, enjoy reading you're thoughts