Facebook Courts Controversy With Page That Could Derail Murder Trial

Facebook has refused requests from Australian police to take down a page calling for the public execution of a murder suspect.

The page has garnered more than 44,000 likes since Jill Meagher, a 29-year-old Irish woman, was raped and murdered on Sept. 22 in Victoria, Australia.

Australian authorities and relatives of the victim worry that the Facebook page entitled “Publicly hang Adrian Ernest Bayley” could allow the suspect’s lawyers to argue for a mistrial.

“We’ve got to remember that no matter how horrible this crime is, this gentleman has got to be afforded a fair trial. It’s not for Facebook pages or anyone else to be taking justice into their own hands,” said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay at a press conference.

After declining to remove the page, Facebook offered this statement:

“We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies and also to restrict access to content in a country, where we are advised that it violates local law.”

But the Daily Dot points out that the page could very well violate Australian law:

In the United States, gag orders can only extend to people involved in a trial, but not the news media. Not so in Australia. The country’s contempt of court laws restricts media from publishing material that might influence an ongoing or forthcoming trial. The goal is to prevent potential jurors or others from being influenced by biased media—the so-called “trial by newspaper.”

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