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Social Media

Should Not

Be Allowed

To Interfere

With The


Of Justice

Phoebe Franich

Alan Patterson Public

Speaking Award


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