Alan Patterson Public
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Linked In, Myspace – okay
well, not as much MySpace, but Social media truly is ubiquitous – it
is all around us. Gone is the time when you’d log on to Facebook once
or twice a day , we are now living in an agewhere it ismore uncommon
to log out than it is to actually log on. We are constantly connected.
The vast majority of people in our year level would have Facebook,
and let’s just say each has around 600 friends online. Times that by
the number of girls in the year you get over 36,000 people. Allow for
some overlap and we have about 20,000 friends between us, clearly
we are a pretty popular bunch. We’ve formed a web of connections,
and in the 21st century, if we have an opinion, with the click of a
button, we can share it.
But while social media platforms are beneficial to the public in
terms of providing a forum for the sharing of information, we must
appreciate the dangers. I will be focusing on the threats it poses to
the administration of justice and the accused’s right to a fair trial,
which I consider to be most concerning.
Can you believe that it has almost been a year since a story broke
that would capture the nation’s attention like very few before it. We,
as Australians, held our breath and hoped for the best when Jill
Meagher first went missing, and we were collectively thrust into a
state of shock and horror when her body was discovered six days
later in a shallow grave at Gisborne South.
During Jill’s disappearance extensive social media campaigns
were launched. Thomas Meagher, Jill’s husband, posted a missing
persons poster on his Facebook account and this poster was then
shared nearly 3,000 times by other users. Additionally a ‘Help us
find Jill Meagher’ Facebook page was set up within hours of the
announcement that Jill was missing. Within 4 days the page had
received a massive 127, 000 likes on Facebook. The level of interest
in the case elicited by media attention and the
footage of Jill
that was broadcast led to a large number of people quickly coming
forward to help in the case.
Most of you would know that social media played an integral part
in raising public awareness and bringing the accused closer to justice,
but what you may not know is that at one point, this same social
media threatened to compromise the entire legal process. Fairness
and justice are indispensable in our legal system. In order for justice
to be done, the accused must be presumed innocent until proven