Jail time for a Facebook stunt goes to show that what you do
with social media can have real world legal consequences. It is
important to recognise that the laws that apply in the real world
also apply in cyberspace. Earlier in the year, in our article
Cyberspace is no longer a lawless world' (27 April 2012),
we wrote about the case of Ronnie Usmanov who was ordered to serve
a suspended sentence for posting nude photos of his exgirlfriend on
Facebook. The more recent case of David McRory and Joshua Turner is
another demonstration of the potential extent of those legal
David McRory and his friend Joshua Turner, both 22, created a
Facebook page called Bender's Root Rate which invited Bendigo
citizens to rate the sexual performance of their partners, some as
young as 13.
It has been reported that hundreds of people had sexually
explicit things written about them.
McRory and Turner both pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates
Court to using an online carriage service to publish objectionable
and offensive material.
McRory was sentenced to four months jail on each of the two
Facebook related charges, to be served concurrently. McRory is
currently on bail pending an appeal on sentence, however, if his
appeal fails, he will be the first person to serve a jail sentence
for publishing offensive material on social media in Australia
Magistrate Wright said a jail sentence was appropriate to send a
strong message to the public about unacceptable online behaviour.
He said, "these sorts of matters deserve the condemnation of
In a separate hearing, Turner was given a suspended six-month
prison sentence and was banned from using Facebook for two
years. Turner is also appealing his sentence.
With social media, being such a fast medium for information, it
is inevitable that people will post stupid comments. According to
Leading Senior Constable Riley, McRory had set up the page for
"a laugh, entertainment". A jail sentence appears to be
disproportionate for an action of immaturity.
It is interesting that the actions of McRory and Turner have put
them in such hot water given that Facebook started as a "hot
or not" game for Harvard students that allowed website
visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them
choose who was "hot" and who was "not". McRory
and Turner may have faced a different outcome if their Facebook
page was not an open forum to comment (often in a derogatory
manner) about the performance of sexual partners. Maybe if the
Facebook page had simply been a rating system similar to the
origins of Facebook, their fate may have been quite different.
Internationally, social media crimes are also being recognised.
In the UK in March this year, Liam Stacey admitted to posting
racially offensive comments on Twitter about England Under 21
international footballer, Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac
arrest during a televised FA Cup match between Bolton Wanderers and
Tottenham Hotspur. Stacey said that when he posted the comments, he
had been drunk. Within two hours, the situation had escalated and
turned into a 'witch-hunt' for him. He was sentenced to
jail for 56 days, however, was released after serving half the
These cases illustrate the legal consequences that can result
from misuse of social media. As Magistrate Wright stated, "I
need to send you and others a message", the only question is,
whether that message was too strong?
Given the speed in which information travels through cyberspace,
this case is a timely reminder that everyone has to be aware of the
ramifications that can arise from posting inappropriate material
and comments on social media platforms.
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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