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Check your Facebook and Google at the door ? courts deal with social media

Bond University has led a national taskforce in advising Australia’s Standing Council on Law and Justice on the impact of social media on juries.

Professor Patrick Keyzer and Associate Professor Jane Johnston from the Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy worked with a group of law and media academics from five Australian universities to advise the state’s attorneys-general on strategies to deal with the growing challenge of social media’s impact on fair trial.

Centre Director of Media Jane Johnston said the project presented an important investigation into how social media was impacting on courts.

“This is a serious issue facing our courts. So many people are active on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and comments about legal cases can have significant implications.

“Social media networks can provide avenues for comment that can adversely impact on court proceedings.”

Associate Professor Johnston said while journalists had training in sub judice contempt that provided them with the knowledge of what can and can’t be published this was not the case with social media which allowed anybody to comment on a legal inquiry at any time, without an understanding of what may or may not be prejudicial to a trial.

“We provided an options-paper for the Attorney’s General. We collated the international best practices in this field and provided informed strategic approaches for the Australian courts.

“Internationally, this issue is seen as very significant. We saw very specific courts’ advisories to jurors about not using social media in their research or communications.” 
“It’s really a case of ‘check your Facebook and Google at the door’ for jurors,” she said.

Other universities who collaborated on the project were Monash, Griffith, UTS and Edith Cowan.

“We looked at this issue from the east coast and the west, at an interdisciplinary level from law and the humanities, and while we know there is no magic wand, we believe we were able to provide useful ways forward in this rapidly changing media and legal space.”

The report can be found on the Australia’s Standing Council on Law and Justice website.    

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