Entries by category: Cyberlaw


Organised and serious crime revisited

We recently wrote a post on 'Organised and serious crime' about a recent report produced by the Australian Crime Commission, Organised crime in Australia 2013.  How have academics responded to this report?

The Australian Crime Commission has provided links to two responses - see Reader response: serious and organised crime, more than a sum of its parts, 23 August 2013.  You will find links to:

  • Blog post by Dr David Cornery published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Official blog written on 13 August 2013 and 
  • Reader response to this post by Hamish Hansford on 21 August on why the impact of organised crime makes it a national security issue.

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Offensive tweets

A US rapper, known as Tyler the creator, whose lyrics include subjects such as violence, rape fantasies, murder and even necrophilia, recently performed in Australia.  A young woman, Talitha Stone, used Twitter to object to the rapper's lyrics for inciting rape and violence against women. She also attended his all-ages concert to gather evidence about his lyrics.

The rapper responded by retweeting her message to his fans and she received a barrage of tweets filled with abusive and violent messages.  At Tyler's concert he also launched a verbal attack which Ms Stone described as 'terrifying and disturbing'. 

The response of Twitter was lukewarm and certainly did not stop the barrage of tweets. The available complaint procedure with Twitter is that a long form needs to be filled out for each tweet.  If you get hundreds of tweets this becomes virtually impossible. 

Talitha Stone set up a petition through Change.org, calling for Twitter to have a zero tolerance policy for abuse and violence. In response to the publicity, Ms Stone has received a public apology from Twitter and they have announced plans to change their policy from next month.

Background information to this story

Twitter’s Help Centre: Abusive Behaviour

How can you help bring change?

Responses of Government

The Australian Human Rights Commission ran a Right’s Talk: Human rights responses to online hate, discrimination and bullying on 7 August.  If papers are published, we will add a link to them.  During this information session, they discussed 'e-bile' or the use of social media to vent hatred and make violent threats.  They are keen for a remedy to exist for women such as Talitha Stone against such behaviour.  Stay tuned.

ACMA have launched a Digital Citizen's Guide which focuses on encouraging positive behaviours in cyberspace

Other responses to inappropriate or offensive tweets

  • The experience of an academic: Recently, in the US, an academic faces the consequences of a recent tweet that was found to be inoffensive.  See '140 thoughtless characters cost dear in academia' by Katherine Wheat, The Conversation, 9 August 2013.
  • Journalists or 'bloggers' in court: new legislation has been passed in NSW to prevent the reporting of court proceedings through new media such as Twitter without the express permission of the judge. For more details, see our post on this new legislation coming soon!

This use of Twitter is an excellent example of hate crime.  The Australian Hate Crime Network has useful information about hate crime, including links to legislation, magazine articles and case studies.

For more information about Twitter, Cyberlaw and Cybercrime, see the following Research Guides:


Social media and courts

How do the courts handle the use of social media in courts?  What are the likely impacts of the use of social media during court proceedings? 

The Judicial Commission of NSW recently conducted research into the impact and general concerns about the increasing use of social media in court.  The research included the uses of Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, text messages and photographs. The report was delivered in February 2013 and identified 20 areas of concern, including:

  • juror misuse of social media leading to aborted trials
  • breach of suppression orders by tweets or on FaceBook and the difficulties of enforcing a restraining order
  • increased risk of cyber bullying or cyber stalking of court participants including victims, jurors and judges
  • disclosure of information to witnesses or others waiting outside courtroom
  • defamatory statements that 'go viral' on social media

For more details of this study and the other concerns raised see 'The courts and social media: what do judges and court workers think?' by Patrick Keyzeer, Jane Johnston, Mark Pearson, Sharon Rodrick and Anne Wallace (2013) 25 (6) Judicial Officer’s Bulletin 47.

The courts have been wrestling with this dilemma for some time.  This article written in 2011 highlights that it has been a source of angst for a while: 'Social media: what role should it play in the courts?' (2011) 33 (4) Bulletin of the Law Society of SA 22-23.

In response to this issue, the NSW Government has passed legislation amending the Court Security Act 2005 (NSW) by inserting a new section 9A to prohibit the unauthorised use of any device, including a smart phone or tablet, to transmit sounds, images or information forming part of court proceedings from a room, or other place where a court is sitting, to another place.  Section 9 of the Court Security Act 2005 currently states that a person must not use a recording device to record sound or images, or both, in court premises. This prohibition is subject to certain exceptions such as where a judge expressly grants approval for the use of a recording device. The maximum penalty is 200 penalty units, imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

The Attorney-General Greg Smith in the second reading speech said:

'These amendments address recent security incidents in courts that have highlighted the fact that the existing legislation does not capture the capability of recent technology—for example, people in court transmitting witness evidence by smart phone to another witness waiting outside the court to give evidence.

However, it is important to preserve the principle of open justice. Although not common, there may be circumstances in which journalists wish to use electronic devices to report on proceedings contemporaneously through new media, such as Twitter or by blogging. While these circumstances are not expressly covered in the proposed statutory exceptions, there is a regulation-making power that will allow appropriate exemptions to cover these sorts of circumstances.'

 See Courts and other Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2013 (NSW).  You can read the explanatory notes and second reading speech for more details.  This amendment commenced on 1 July 2013.

 Responses in the media


Privacy Awareness Week 2013

Last week was Privacy Awareness Week.  The NSW Information and Privacy Commission  launched a new video about privacy in which they hit the streets of Sydney to find out what privacy means to members of the community.  They discovered that privacy is a keen concern for many people, who are more conscious than ever of the need to protect their personal information.

What do you think about privacy?  Watch this video this week.  Each day you will find a new cartoon on the Privacy Awareness Week 2013 website depicting the lighter side of privacy.  They raise different issues in a humorous way.

Spend time looking at the online privacy guides they have prepared for parents, teenagers, children and teachers.

Privacy has been discussed in the media recently in some opinion pieces.  In the aftermath of the bombing attack that took place in Boston, it is worth considering the right to privacy v public safety and national security benefits.  What do you think about this issue?

Privacy is a topic you can explore in depth in these parts of the Legal Studies syllabus:

For more information about privacy, browse Find Legal Answers website - privacy



Safer Internet Day

February 5th is Safer Internet Day for 2013.  The theme for the day is 'online rights and responsibilities' and users will be encouraged to 'connect with respect'. 

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are providing a live radio broadcast between 5pm and 8pm where they will be discussing online safety and privacy, digital reputation and citizenship and exploring this year's theme of online rights and responsibilities - connect with respect.  Tune in and take part!

See our Research guide on the Individual and Technology.  You will find information about cyberlaw, use of Facebook and Twitter, cybercrime and other interesting topics.

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