A topic of much heated debate out in the online community and
through the realms of cyberspace is whether there is a social media
law? Although there is no Social Media Act or Social Networking
Act, it is important to recognise that the laws that apply in the
real world also apply in cyberspace and that what you do with
social media can have real world legal consequences.
The reality that laws in the real world can have an impact in
cyberspace has been confirmed in one of Australia's first
social networking-related convictions. Ravshan "Ronnie"
Usmanov posted 6 nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook.
Usmanov was originally sentenced to six months imprisonment by way
of Home Detention. On appeal by Usmanov, the District Court
confirmed the defendant's sentence of imprisonment, but
quashed the Home Detention Order and ordered that the sentence be
The basic facts of the matter were:
Usmanov posted six naked images of his ex-girlfriend ("the
complainant") on his Facebook page.
At 8.01am, 8.11am and 9.39am, Usmanov sent an email to the
complainant saying, "Some of your photos are now on
The complainant immediately went to Usmanov's home
where she confronted him and asked him to remove the photos, which
he refused to do. She then went to the police.
The police spoke with Usmanov and he agreed to take the photos
down and removed them.
At approximately 2.50pm that day, the complainant contacted the
police complaining that the photos had been reposted.
Usmanov was arrested and charged with publishing indecent
articles under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The maximum
penalty for this offence is a sentence of imprisonment for a period
of 12 months together with a fine of up to $11,000.
In sentencing Usmanov, the Deputy-Chief Magistrate, Jane
Mottley, said New-age technology through Facebook gives instant
access to the world. Facebook as a social networking site has
limited boundaries. Incalculable damage can be done to a
person's reputation by the irresponsible posting of
information through that medium. With its popularity and potential
for real harm, there is a genuine need to ensure the use of this
medium to commit offences of this type is deterred.
Usmanov's lawyer argued that posting the naked photos on
Facebook was not a "serious offence". To this,
Deputy-Chief Magistrate Mottley replied with, "What could be
more serious than publishing nude photographs of a woman on the
internet?" She added, "It's one thing to publish
an article in print form with limited circulation. That may affect
the objective seriousness of the offence but once it goes on the
worldwide web via Facebook it effectively means it's open
to anyone who has some link in any way, however remotely."
There have been no other NSW reported decisions which deal with
the issue where indecent material has been published on Facebook or
the Internet that does not constitute child pornography. The only
other relevant case is Police v Joshua Ashby from the Wellington
District Court in New Zealand on 12 November 2010. In this matter,
Mr Ashby had posted a nude photograph of his ex girlfriend on
Facebook. Not only did he log into her account and upload the
image, which showed her to be naked in front of a mirror, he then
unblocked her privacy settings and changed her password. The image
remained online for a period of 12 hours before the police and
Facebook authorities shut down the account. Mr Ashby received a
full time sentence of imprisonment for a period of 4 months.
This case serves as a warning to all users of social media that
there are real legal consequences for the posting of indecent or
defamatory material about another person.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
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