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NZ Judge Bans Online Publishing of Accuseds' Names

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the a-bit-arbitrary dept.

Censorship 219

The Master Moose writes "A judge in New Zealand has banned the press from reporting online the names of two men accused of murder. The names of the men will be allowed to be reported in print as well as through Television and Radio broadcast. It would seem he has taken this step to prevent someone 'googling' these peoples names in the future and finding them linked to a crime if found innocent."

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219 comments

What's the point? (5, Insightful)

haltenfrauden27 (1338125) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734231)

Ok, so the judge banned the press from doing this. But it's impossible to stop some random person (probably not even in New Zealand) from posting this information online. Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

Re:What's the point? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734259)

I think we need to liscence who gets access to this "internet" you speak of since it's clearly dangerous.
Bets that this judge is some OAP who was shown by his grandson how you could "google" someone...

Re:What's the point? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734301)

From TFA:

Judge Harvey teaches the Law and Information Technology course at the University of Auckland. The course looks at the way technology impacts on evidence, jurisdiction and freedom of information.
Judge Harvey has also written a textbook on the internet and law called internet.law.nz.

Re:What's the point? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734389)

And yet somehow he fails to understand the Streisand effect... and the fact that any Joe Slob can post anything on the net with complete anonymity if they so wish.

Re:What's the point? (1)

Martian_Kyo (1161137) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734437)

there's no such thing as complete anonymity on the net.

this banning gesture might be well-intentioned but is misinformed an impossible tom implement

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734483)

Hah!
unless the NSA or magical imps are after you then complete anonymity can be gained by a few simple steps.

1: Find 3 or more VPN/proxy services located in different countries. Look for ones which claim to not keep any logs.
2: Change your MAC address.
3: Drive out to some random carpark with your laptop and hop on an open network/WEP network.
4: Connect through proxies/VPN's.
5: Do whatever the fuck you want.

Anyone who can trace you at this point has magical powers or already knows who you are and has cameras in your shower.

Re:What's the point? (1, Insightful)

Drantin (569921) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734517)

Or step 5 includes enough information to discover your identity...

Re:What's the point? (4, Funny)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734531)

I was assuming that the person involved wasn't retarded.
All bets are off if after doing all this you log into your myspace and update your name and address.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734807)

Change your MAC address.

Talking of people who don't know internets, what do you think this achieves?

Re:What's the point? (2, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734985)

just a final layer.
if my some insanely remote chance it's traced back to the network you used and not enough people have been using it to flush you out of the logs by then there's still nothing that can be tied to you. I know macs can be changed but if your factory default mac address turns up that's ever so sightly worse than some random MAC. A mac address alone is still as close to worthless as it's possible to get but it's best to cover all posibilities.

Re:What's the point? (2, Informative)

Sophia Ricci (1337419) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735051)

there's no such thing as complete anonymity on the net.

Why not? It is very easy to spoof packets into net hiding your identity entirely. There are websites [proxylord.com] that allow you to post on any web sites anonymously. There are tools like "IP Address changer" [iprivacytools.com] to protect your privacy.

Good job that a judge has raised this problem (1)

AxeTheMax (1163705) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734481)

Sullied reputations are a problem even with the old print journalism. It's a good job that a knowledgeable judge has raised this problem in this way. He probably knows that their names will leak out on the internet anyway.

Re:Good job that a judge has raised this problem (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734495)

But he hasn't banned their names from appearing in traditional media and anyone at all who sees those other forms of media can post things on the net.

Re:Good job that a judge has raised this problem (5, Insightful)

robfoo (579920) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734587)

Yes, but 'anyone at all' doesn't have the weight of a newspaper or other 'reputable' source behind them.
I think the Judge has a pretty interesting idea here - of course the names will end up on the internet, but only in blog posts and such..

For instance, if I was to google 'HungryHobo' and saw within the results a blog post saying "HungryHobo's mom is a crack whore", I'd probably disregard it.
However, if I saw an article in the online version of an established dead-tree newspaper headlined "HungryHobo's mother implicated in drugs-for-sex scandal" then I'd be more inclined to believe it.

However I'm not sure what would happen if a number of blog posts or other websites published the names along with links to articles about the case - google's page rank may effectively tie the names to the articles!

Re:Good job that a judge has raised this problem (5, Informative)

inzy (1095415) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734619)

But he hasn't banned their names from appearing in traditional media and anyone at all who sees those other forms of media can post things on the net.

having seen this on the news today, it appears that no they can't post it on the net. from what i understand, anyone can be prosecuted for breaching this order, not just the 'press' (whatever that may mean).

his intention was to stop the spread of 'viral' videos that refer to the killing, and possibly prejudicing the trial

the killing was allegedly gang-related, and gangs in nz have a habit of recording stuff (either at the time or later) and making videos glorifying some act, that they then post to youtube or wherever. if the judge issues a court order, they can wave that at google or whoever, and get the video taken down/blocked

Re:Good job that a judge has raised this problem (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735389)

But that doesn't stop the Streisand effect, and it becomes a whole lot messier as soon as one person in New Zealand tells anyone outside of New Zealand the names of the accused.

Re:Good job that a judge has raised this problem (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734839)

What about the newspaper's online archives? (Sorry. Someone probably already posted this. Too tired this a.m. to care to search. Then again, the judge man ban posting about the posting of names on the Internet.)

Re:What's the point? (3, Interesting)

Rangataua (820853) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734551)

My guess is that this is a experiment by the Judge in question to see what difference (if any) the ban will make (this is a high profile case in NZ).

The judge actually has a lot of IT experience (5, Informative)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734513)

Bets that this judge is some OAP who was shown by his grandson how you could "google" someone...

Actually what's particularly interesting about this case is that the judge also teaches Information Technology and has written a text-book on cyber law in New Zealand, and he's made a submission to the NZ government about spam legislation [med.govt.nz] which I haven't read, but you could probably look at if you want some guideline idea of his IT competence.

One of New Zealand's media commentators with a lot of IT experience (Russell Brown [publicaddress.net] , for whom I have a lot of respect) threw in a few comments over here [stuff.co.nz] , and wasn't immediately condemning of the actions of the judge. Brown commented that he thinks this judge probably has more technical knowledge of the Internet than any other judge in the country, and coming from him it's either quite compelling or very detrimental to every other judge.

New Zealand's had problems in the past with courts trying to suppress names, particularly in cases when there's been international interest in the case, because the suppression orders only apply in New Zealand. I don't understand what he expects to achieve except possibly hoping that jurors won't be able to hide at home and google the names as easily during critical points in the trial, especially since the details of this trial are unlikely to gather much interest outside NZ. I think Brown's theory that this is an experimental act from the judge to see what happens sounds fairly feasible.

Re:The judge actually has a lot of IT experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734673)

That's one theory. Personally, I reckon he's just trying to keep that Tony Veitch guy in the news a bit longer.

Re:The judge actually has a lot of IT experience (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734715)

In Norway media are always banned from reporting the name of a suspect until the name is offically released by proper authorities.
This applies to print, tv and other media.

This is to protect the suspect until he or she is actually found guilty of a crime. If the case is high profile of course the name will leak out but it is still not printed or reported on through TV.

I personally think this is a good way to do it as even being a suspect of some crimes can screw your life up quite a bit. In the case of internet sites the problem is made even more problematic as the information will probably linger for a long time but often without any reference to a trial!

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734319)

Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

Maybe you should think a little harder about how humans work.

Is the internet a tool in the service of mankind or vice-versa? Anything the internet wants the internet gets? What if the internet wants to publish every hot chat you ever had with who you thought was a woman but was actually a 9 year old boy? It's the internet, we have to give it what it wants, sorry.

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734371)

Is the internet a tool in the service of mankind or vice-versa? Anything the internet wants the internet gets?

Your missing the point entirely. You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them. Between them and google this means their names will be all over the Internet anyway. The only effect it will have is to make online publishers into second class press, a group that has to self-censor or be censored because the Internet is such a dangerous place. If there's anything like freedom of the press in NZ, I'd appeal that one all the way over the discrimination compared to other media.

Re:What's the point? (4, Insightful)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734509)

You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them.

If I google someone and find only blog gossip that is different from finding an article in the New York Times. 99% of blogs are no more than two ladies with their hair in curlers talking over the back fence.

I believe this will become more and more true in the future when it will become clear that random blogs can and often do contain outright lies.

Let's say I mouth off about totalitarian China. Then some Chinese operative (love that word, so rarely get to use it in a sentence) writes a blog falsely claiming to have read about my child molestation trial in the Sydney Morning Herald. How long before every single person on the planet has their character assassinated that way? Not long I bet.

Having said all that I don't dispute you have a point. I can think of ways around these things, none of them perfect, all of them painful. The alternative is to give up age-old ideas of privacy. Which should we do?

Re:What's the point? (2, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734577)

If I google someone and find only blog gossip that is different from finding an article in the New York Times.

Except you find the blogs with
a) Link to the online article
b) Reference to the offline article with the name

In many ways that's actually worse, because most people won't bother to check the reference and just assume the blog is correct. The point here is that there are reliable sources beyond blogs with the name, and they are just trying to make it difficult to connect the dots. If no part of the press would report the name that'd at least make some sense...

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734527)

I think you're the one missing his point...

As for traditional media vs online media, my view is that traditional media shouldn't be publishing it either.

Re:What's the point? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734875)

Do normal bloggers have anywhere near the experience that the main press does in cruel slander?

Re:What's the point? (1)

AnotherUsername (966110) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734935)

Bloggers are always wanting to be equated with the press. If they feel that they are similar to the press, then, by their own admission of being 'the press,' then they cannot write about it either.

Internet is not endowed with reason or desire (1)

e70838 (976799) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735279)

You can not enforce interdictions to publish information on internet. Interdictions will be violated either by ignorance or by malicious or by others countries that do not have to comply to your local laws.

Internet DOES NOT WORK like this. It is not an entity to whom you can ask something. Google is an entity. You can ask google to not reference sites that contain prohibited information, (but if I was google, I would ask money for this).

If the 9 year old boy wants to publish your hot chat, he can do it (and also in newspaper), he can prove that this is not defamation.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734343)

...But it's impossible to stop some random person (probably not even in New Zealand) from posting this information online...

There is a difference between a random blog and an official news site. Of course if the info appears on an official news site outside of NZ all bets are off.

Re:What's the point? (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734503)

Well, if the judges point was to stop people googling for them later in case they are found to be innocent then he has just achieved the opposite.

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734549)

I have to agree, you can even use proxies to cover your tracks anyhow even if you are in new zealand anyhow....

Dang I should create an account here I read slashdot enough

Primefalcon

Re:What's the point? (1)

Maelwryth (982896) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734553)

"Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works."

I think the Judge has a fairly good idea about how the internet works. But, this is more about how people work. What he is trying to stop is jurors googling the information. It appears, according to Radio New Zealand this morning, that jurors have been googling peoples names and then seeing what popped up. Imagine the jurors in the Hans Reiser case getting a good dose of Slashdot......very impartial. New Zealand's not that big, if you Google someone here and their name comes up, it's probably the right person.

Re:What's the point? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734583)

Ok, so the judge banned the press from doing this. But it's impossible to stop some random person (probably not even in New Zealand) from posting this information online. Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

Like a set of tubes?

Re:What's the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734607)

Sure someone can post it. If you google for someone, what information is more credible.. some guy's blog, or a newspaper article?

Re:What's the point? (3, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734701)

Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

No, this is happening because he's been thinking way too much on this topic already.

The judge suffers from a weird case of self-centered career thesis myopia. He wrote a thesis/book titled internet.law.nz. He teaches a course on this very topic at the University of Auckland. He considers himself an expert in that area. And this is basically what happens when you make your local expert know-it-all -- a real judge -- with real powers. Common sense goes out the window, and super-conflated thesis-related academic mental masturbation takes over his every case.

Re:What's the point? (4, Informative)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734915)

I happen to know this particular Judge. You know how I met him? Playing Quake deathmatches back in the nineties. He was handy with a rocket launcher, was great base defence in CTF matches, and trash-talked like a motherfucker. Anyway, the point I'm trying to work my way around to is that this particular Judge is probably the most net-savvy online officer of the court you could ever meet. This Judge had a personal hand in the design and implementation of the in-court computer networks used in the NZ court system. Hell, this is a Judge who goes to LAN PARTIES. So I'm going to assume that he knows EXACTLY what the real-world implications of his ruling are, and he is trying to balance some conflicting principles that he cannot ignore.

So yeah, comments insinuating that this Judge doesn't know how the Internet works are off-target. This guy has been part of the online scene since before half the script kiddies here were born.

Re:What's the point? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735461)

I think the press has the duty of disclosing those names in responsible fashion. The web is somewhat of a permanent public record. You obviously won't like if someone published the fact that you were accused - or arrested - of possessing kiddy-porn and fail completely to update the page when you are cleared of all accusations.

In that regard, it would be smarter to allow on-line publishing, but holding the publisher responsible for updating the page if charges are dropped and applying steep penalties for failing that obligation. The same could apply for print media - it could be free to disclose names, as long as they reserve at least equal (ideally, multiple) space for updates if the person is not found guilty. Then, publishing a name becomes a gamble, as they would risk having to put several whole pages saying "sorry, that guy was innocent".

I have seen a good couple people whose careers were ruined when the press jumped to conclusions (a School here in São Paulo is the example that comes to my mind)

Should be standard (5, Informative)

matt4077 (581118) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734261)

In the small part of Europe I live in, it's common practice (even written in a non-binding "codex") not to publish the pictures or names of accused. It's obvious that the "This guy raped a child" headline will stick while "Trial ends, accused absolved" will sometimes not even be published.

Yes, it should be voluntary, but it's the right thing to do.

Re:Should be standard (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734311)

Oh I agree, either ban the mainstream media from publishing that kind of thing altogether on the basis of "innocent until proven guilty" or require that they publish an innocent verdict in a case in the same manner that they publish that the person is accused.
Think in terms of if they have 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page spreads about how someone is accused of killing little Maddie then when that person is found guilty or the charges dropped they have to have at least 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page spreads about how they're not accused in issues on the same days of the week and similar print numbers.

Re:Should be standard (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734327)

*when that person is found not guilty or the charges dropped

what is it with me and typing today...

Re:Should be standard (4, Insightful)

vidarh (309115) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734411)

The problem is that publishing an equally large headline saying they've been acquitted will NOT equate to reversing the damage done by the original headlines. Show humans a horrible accusation and then immediately show them a claim that the original accusations aren't true and a fair share of us will STILL believe the original accusation, or remember the original accusation but not the retraction later on, or remember both but still be thinking "what if" and treat the person accused as if the accusations were true. And that is even assuming all the same people ready it. In fact, given how humans think, a fair number of people who did NOT read the names in the original accusations might believe the original accusations once they see the retractions.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I do think media does have a responsibility to thread carefully. They can't hide behind the "but people have a right to know" when they know there is a good chance they will be ruining someones life forever even if what they report is written in ways that are factually true - they don't live in a vaccum, and even if they are legally on solid ground, there are ethical and moral issues to take into account.

Often, I question what their motives even are with publishing the names. If the person in question is being kept in custody during the trial there is no compelling public interest in making the name and picture public unless the police is still looking for more information, for example. If the person is free, I can see some interest particularly in the local area, but that wouldn't justify a national newspaper plastering it over the front page for example.

The name will mean nothing to most people until it's been hammered into their heads by the media. But afterwards that person is effectively screwed whether or not they're found guilty.

Re:Should be standard (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734459)

You're right.

I've run into enough of those damned "think of the children" crowd to know that there are people out there who think that anyone ever accused of being a pedophile should be put on the sex offenders register/killed without trial even if found completely and totally innocent because "nothing is too much to make sure our children are safe!!!!!"

Re:Should be standard (3, Insightful)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734507)

Better yet, allow the party that was found to be not guilty to enter a suit claiming damages against anybody that distributed the information.

Trial by media is not the way to get a good judicial system.

Re:Should be standard (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735401)

From an earlier comment of yours:

I think we need to liscence who gets access to this "internet" you speak of since it's clearly dangerous.

From your current post (the parent):

Oh I agree, either ban the mainstream media from publishing that kind of thing altogether...

Assuming you were being sarcastic in the top quote, you appear to have double standards on censorship of the internet and censorship of mainstream media. Just thought you should know.

Re:Should be standard (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734465)

I wonder if it's the same corner as me, here's the bit from the Norwegian press ethics:

4.7. Be cautious in the use of names and photographs and other clear identifiers of persons in referring to contentious or punishable matters. Special caution should be exercised when reporting cases at the early stage of investigation, cases concerning young offenders and cases in which an identifying report may place an unreasonable burden on a third party. Identification must be founded on a legitimate need for information. It may, for instance, be legitimate to identify someone where there is imminent danger of assault on defenceless individuals, in the case of serious and repeated crimes, if the identity or social position of the subject is patently relevant to the case being reported on, or where identification protects the innocent from exposure to unjustified suspicion.

As an ethical rule, I prefer this default that the press will not report on the accused's identity unless there's good reason to. On the other hand, I'm far from certain I'd like a judge to forcibly suppress the names, as you can see there are legitimate exceptions and from time to time people are identified. If push came to shove, I'd rather trust the press not to publish details out of ethics than trust the government not to suppress details they don't want me to hear.

Re:Should be standard (3, Insightful)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735213)

I can't think of ANY reason to publish the name of ANYBODY "accused" of anything, for the simple reason that they are STILL innocent at that point.

When the eventual verdict is delivered as guilty, then and ONLY THEN, can it be published that "Mr A N Other found guilty of charge" - NOT BEFORE.

Many innocent people's reputations have been destroyed due to this system, and it's simply not right. neither is publish the name and then (maybe) publish a redaction at a later point in time ... the damage has already been done by then.

It's the same as the judge instructing the jury to "forget the last witnesses statement" etc ... we cannot be programmed like machines to forget, and once tarred with a certain brush, it is not easy to remove that image from the mind of the general public.

Re:Should be standard (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735117)

Do it anyway for high profile cases and consider the legal fees and whatnot a cost of business.

All that will end up doing is making the names of the accused in high profile cases very, very valuable. Granted though, a majority of newspapers with upstanding editors would fall in line.

I don't know if this would fly in America, though. Freedom of speech and all that.

Re:Should be standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24735531)

In the small part of Europe I live in, it is against the law to publish full names or pictures of accused people. Usually only initials, year of birth and home town are published.

Does not make sense (1)

ulash (1266140) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734263)

It is a very hackish solution to the "problem" defined by the judge. Obviously there will be people blogging about it and newspapers outside the country carrying their names online because of the attention this case will receive now (ironically because of the judge's actions). If anything the accused will be even more "famous"...

Re:Does not make sense (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735211)

I reckon it's the only thing that can conceivably work, short of a blanket name suppression for all accused criminals forever. It may work, it may not. We'll see.

In its favour, the point is not to keep their names a secret, but to prevent the names from appearing on major news sites and news aggregators that will be permanently searchable by potential employers et al for the rest of eternity. In the event of a "not guilty" verdict, I don't imagine that there will be quite as much prejudice against the accused from names appearing on random blogs as there would be if they appeared on national newspapers' websites.

since it's impossible to delete stuff from the net (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734267)

... that seems entirely reasonable.

Until people such as employers, potential girl/boy-friends realise that:

1.) there are more than one person with each name

2.) almost nothing on the internet is corroborated, valdated or authenticated, it's mostly rumour - so far as individuals go

3.) old information never dies and bad new travels much faster than good news

Then it's a hopelessly unreliable medium for information to make judgements about someone.

Re:since it's impossible to delete stuff from the (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734523)

Common sense, alas is not all that common. In fact *anything* that you get from a third party is hearsay, and should be treated with caution.

Re:since it's impossible to delete stuff from the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734711)

and pictures of you from the cristmas party, are most likely, just that.

Re:since it's impossible to delete stuff from the (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734937)

old information never dies and bad new travels much faster than good news

In fact, you can propel a rather large spaceship with bad news; it will make it travel faster than light, but won't be welcome anywhere. How infinitely improbable is that, huh? ;)

i can see the news pages (1)

extirpater (132500) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734275)

there should be a link "click here to print out names"

onLoad="window.print()"

judges order!

Accusation = conviction by the press (3, Interesting)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734277)

Folks might be crying censorship. Of course it's a band-aid to the sensationalism - but got any better ideas? The accusations will be on front pages of tabloids since MURDER SELLS. If these guys get cleared as not guilty, it will be on page 10 as a tiny note, if even that. Guess which one Google catches?

Other option might be that everyone who makes news about the accusations should make similar headlines of the end of trial regardless of whether they were convicted or not...

Re:Accusation = conviction by the press (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734353)

Guess which one Google catches?

Both?

Re:Accusation = conviction by the press (1)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734367)

Rephrase: Guess which one Google presents as the first few thousand hits?

Re:Accusation = conviction by the press (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734407)

I don't know, it tends to be pretty big news when someone is found innocent of a crime such as murder.

Then again, there's many, many murders that happen which get absolutely no press beyond a line in the police blog section of the news paper. Not everything gets covered, or cared about, like OJ and Nancy Holloway.

Re:Accusation = conviction by the press (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734815)

I don't know, it tends to be pretty big news when someone is found innocent of a crime such as murder.

It's big news when it's a celebrity (either victim or accused, eg. OJ Simpson in the US or Jill Dando in the UK) or there was something deemed by the press as "important" (eg. a child was involved).

Otherwise, it certainly isn't big news.

Re:Accusation = conviction by the press (3, Interesting)

mcbridematt (544099) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734559)

In Australia a supposed pedophile case was recently thrown out by a judge who considered a fair trial with all the media attention impossible. Ever since judges have applied suppression orders to stop the names going out to the public.

Privacy of Courts (4, Insightful)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734309)

I've always thought withholding names of the accused was a damn good idea. An innocent person should not have his life, reputation, or finances ruined, and the fact of the matter is, an accusation (even if false) can be damning for life.

However, this runs counter to the "openness" requirement of democracies: that the public should be able to discover what their public officials are doing. In this case, court cases must be a matter of public record so that transparency of the judicial branch can be maintained. You wouldn't want the judges/DA's/police doing secret prosecutions.

So, does some happy medium exist? Can we withhold the names of the accused in print/internet and maintain judicial transparency? This could fall under defamation or slander laws if the person is later found innocent. There are mechanisms in place to recover costs for innocent people, but none to recover the damage done to reputations.

Re:Privacy of Courts (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734369)

I agree, I'm just bothered by the fact that the other forms of media didn't suffer a similar ban, tabloids can bring on witch hunts more easily than the internet.

"the public should be able to discover what their public officials are doing"
I assume you mean if some public official is taken to court. Keep in mind that until they're found guiltly it must be assumed that they've done nothing wrong but give the accused the ability to waive their right to anonymity if they want media attention and have the right to contact a reporter be similar to the right to contact a lawyer.

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734453)

I agree, I'm just bothered by the fact that the other forms of media didn't suffer a similar ban, tabloids can bring on witch hunts more easily than the internet.

With respect to this particular article, I agree. The ban should be universal and prosecutable. i.e. if J.Random posts the name of the accused, then the accused should be able to sue for defamation. (or some similar recourse)

I assume you mean if some public official is taken to court.

No, I mean when anyone is taken to court. Imagine a police/justice department with a racist bent which was systematically targeting people of one race just to harass them. Or, imagine a politically motivated court which charged public officials with crimes, just to drag them into court when an important vote was being taken in congress. The public needs to be able to figure out that their justice department is corrupt, in these cases, and take action.

I don't think it's possible to prevent people from discovering the name of the accused. (I mean, they can always attend hearings) But I think a ban on spreading rumors in public forums/news/tv/internet would be workable.

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

Awptimus Prime (695459) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734379)

So, does some happy medium exist?

Not likely. It's not one of those things where you can pick a gray area, since you can't partially disclose the identity or the crime, it's all or nothing.

I'm all for the freedom of information in this regards. If the locals are too immature to handle themselves, then that's their problem.

Re:Privacy of Courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24735019)

I'm all for the freedom of information in this regards. If the locals are too immature to handle themselves, then that's their problem.

No, it's the accused's problem.

Re:Privacy of Courts (2, Interesting)

vidarh (309115) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734431)

There's nothing stopping restrictions that essentially make it legal only to publish the name in official proceedings, and make people jump to a tiny extra hoop to get at them. It doesn't need to be impossible to get at - you just need to prevent it from being shoved in peoples places.

If I have to go to the courts website and dig around a little to find the court papers and download a document to see the name, you've effectively cut off 99.999% or whatever of the population from ever bothering. Why? Because most people don't care about the identity unless it happens to be a crime that happened in your local neighborhood.

That still allows organizations and individuals to keep track of what the government does, but it cuts of a lot of the sensationalism that teaches people who otherwise couldn't give a shit to connect peoples names and faces with crimes before there's even been a trial.

Re:Privacy of Courts (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734505)

There's nothing stopping restrictions that essentially make it legal only to publish the name in official proceedings, and make people jump to a tiny extra hoop to get at them. It doesn't need to be impossible to get at - you just need to prevent it from being shoved in peoples places.

But the internet makes it easy to get around measures like this. For example google might index the court website. Its a bit like how your phone number was right there in the phone book but as soon as it became possible to search for a person by number it became an issue for some people.

Re:Privacy of Courts (0)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735125)

For everything wonderful that the Internet is, it doesn't automatically replace everything that we had before it. Realizing such issues, court documents can still be made public without having them published on the Internet. Laws can be created to criminalize the re-publication of such documents before trials and hearings are concluded etc. while still allowing full access to those who request them in person.

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734435)

Around here we've had a voluntary intermediate solution for a long time: the media withold name and recognizable pictures of the accused during trial.
The problem is that in big cases the foreign press will happily publish the details anyway.

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

Xuranova (160813) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734487)

I've always been against mentioning the name of the accused in court. If they request it, everyone should be under a gag under to keep their name and face out of the media/court docs until found guilty. They do a pretty damn good job of it under rape shield (which I'm against) so it shouldn't be too hard to do for the defendant.

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734515)

Where I live names of accused are always published with only the first name and last initial. Joe B. could be anyone.

I'm not quite sure whether there even is an "openness" requirement for democracy. However, being open/transparent doesn't necessarily include full access to all information all the time. That is a fiction anyway, it certainly doesn't exist in any court I know (except ones you can bribe).

Can we withhold names and maintain transparency? Hell yes. Making th information available in the first place was meant to protect innocent people, mostly the innocent accused. Not letting mass-market media simply destroy lives doesn't break this protection. You can still allow full *offline* access to court documents but change the rules for publication. In theory non-searchable online content would be nice, but not realistic. Once it's out there....

Re:Privacy of Courts (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734539)

In nl as a rule people that are under suspicion but that have not been found guilty (yet) are identified by their initials or firstname and initial letter of lastname only.

This leads to some funny situations where *everybody* knows who we're talking about but still you only see the initials.

Re:Privacy of Courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734649)

Exactly, Both policing and justice must been Seen, must be watched. You can't have secret accusation because corruption can only be kept out by making it systemically impossible; trust doesn't work.

The happy medium you're looking for is education: that Accusation is not Conviction, that an Accused is Presumed Innocence till proven guilty, that Accusations will be followed by solemn hearings and judgements that will establish the truth. And that all of the above are interrelated and rational and necessary steps for a working Justice in Democracy.

These are basic functions for democracy and as such must be understood by everyone. Where you find simple accusation leading to hysteria and suspicion, you have found detrimental ignorance that has to be addressed.

And the names are? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734405)

So, who were these two guys? Surely someone out on Slashdot knows?

Re:And the names are? (3, Informative)

Domstersch (737775) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734645)

I'm living in New Zealand. They were on the 6 o'clock news. Footage of them in court, no less. Damned if I can remember their names, though, and they won't be available in print until tomorrow's newspapers come out. (Damn lack of an evening paper.)

The 14 year old was having a birthday party for his friend, who had just turned 15. According to police, the accused thought the residence was a tinny house [wikipedia.org] , staged a robbery that went wrong, and the whole thing ended up with the 14 year old having his head smashed in by a claw hammer.

Re:And the names are? (3, Informative)

Domstersch (737775) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734689)

You could always listen in to Radio New Zealand [radionz.co.nz] (Warning: Windows Media, YMMV) on the hour to find out. Then you'd be able to type their names in. I, of course, being a New Zealand, can't.

Oh, and rather hilariously, their names are available on teletext [wikipedia.org] .

Resistance is futile (1)

flogic42 (948616) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734535)

This is just going to make them even more famous via the Streisand effect. Censorship is, and should be, completely futile. Either keep a secret at-will or deal with the consequences of everybody talking about it. The internet provides anonymous absolute free speech, and resistance is futile.

What about the Guilty? (1)

fwr (69372) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734593)

For a twist on this story, recall the recent story about the effort by convicted sex offenders to expunge or not list their names and crimes on the Internet? It seems reasonable not to list the names of the merely accused, but conviction records are public record. I can see how there may be some discussion on how and what detail may be required, such as requiring the listing of the actual crimes found guilty of, but banning the publication of convicted criminals doesn't sit right with me. I'm thinking of the sicko 25yo who rapes a young boy or girl, as opposed to the 18yo who got caught with his 16yo girlfriend. As long as some of the details of the crime are included, I don't see a reason at all to withhold names of people actually convicted of crimes. It may also be appropriate to note whether they were convicted by a jury of their peers, or cop'd a plea and confessed to a lesser crime, which some claim they were not even guilty of, to avoid the hassle.

slightly off topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734639)

The ad underneath your post is for more flexible screwing

Granted, its for the flexible shaft ratcheting screwdriver, but still...

Re:What about the Guilty? (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735351)

Certainly the names of the guilty should be allowed to be publicised, as that is in the general public good.

Apart from that, initials and/or some general characteristics (e.g., accused's race, general location) could be used as well.

The purpose isn't to stop people knowing who has been accused, especially in the area they live it would be quite impossible. It is to restrict where this information ends up so that an innocent person won't have their life ruined after the case (and being found not guilty) or even just because they were brought in for questioning!

Names on radio or print media aren't so persistent, and people forget. But the internet, being simple to search, is a different matter.

Innocent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734703)

"...finding them linked to a crime if found innocent."

Shouldn't that be "if not found guilty?"

The best way to deal with terrorism.... (2, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734713)

...is not to publish a single word about it when it happens.

The WTC thing should have been banned from TV instead broadcasting of years of endless replays for the terrorists to be proud of.

Without our sensationalist press, they probably wouldn't bother. What would be the point?

Re:The best way to deal with terrorism.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734823)

But, if we didn't replay it a hojillion times, then we couldn't harness the power of the terrors for our own ends!

A Google Goofy Judgment Surely (1)

lawfuel (1189351) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734735)

The decision is goofy rather than somehow as clever as the judge might think. It's surely fatuous to think the names will somehow be geographically limited by old-line media printing or reporting them. This speaks more of a Chinese-Net fixated mindset than clear-thinking.

Easy call: they are innocent (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734773)

As far as it goes in countries where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty: They are innocent.

And as such, the court cannot find them innocent because they already are. However, the court might later find them not-guilty (status quo) or guilty (new status).

The problem isn't the medium... (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734793)

It's the attitude the media (press) has. We see court cases all the time, profiling the defendant. If they get convicted, they put even more coverage on - but if they don't, they just drop the story, it never gets advertised that the person was innocent.

Not only that, but the way the press (or at least, the BBC and newspapers I see) seem to broadcast without the innocent until proven guilty attitude. I mean, they don't ever say the defendant is guilty, but they do seem to gloss over the fact they could be innocent too.

Everyone presumes that where there is smoke, there is fire, and a truly feel sorry for an innocent man who is tried and found innocent for rape or child abuse or something - I've seen the attitudes people hold, even against someone who has been proven innocent - most of the time just because they didn't know that they had been proven innocent.

Re:The problem isn't the medium... (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735161)

It's the attitude the media (press) has. We see court cases all the time, profiling the defendant. If they get convicted, they put even more coverage on - but if they don't, they just drop the story, it never gets advertised that the person was innocent.

To be fair, in NZ news there has been one notable exception [wikipedia.org] to this principle of "charged once = guilty forever" -- though the re-trial hasn't taken place yet.

Sensible (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734883)

No it won't stop somebody from blogging about it
Yes it is still easy to find out who they are.

However: If somebody's name is in an online newspaper article it is MUCH easier to find through search engine's like google. Newspapers are also vastly more likely to still have their pages up and running in 10 years time, they are more likely to be referenced again by other articles etc... Thus while this certainly does not prevent peopel from fidning the identity of the accused, it drastically reduces the probability that a false accusation will come back and haunt them in 10 years time. To be honest I've always thought it should be standard policy for newspapers to keep those accused of crimes anonymous unless they are already famous for some other reason ( i.e MPs , leaders of national organisations etc ... ).

What are the names? (1, Interesting)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 4 years ago | (#24734885)

This article has made me curious - what are the full names of the accused? Slashdot, and any non-NZ posters are not bound by any such orders, and the names presumable are available on press, so I kindly ask of anyone who has seen the names to post them here on Slashdot. Just to make a point.

Re:What are the names? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24735109)

Sure, if you'll arrange to have your real name, prefixed to the phrase "was accused today of first degree murder in [relevant court where you live]", published on any online news source that maintains permanent searchable archives.

Mod Parent as Troll (3, Insightful)

bmsleight (710084) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735205)

If you follow the story - you see that the judge is trying to preserve justice and ensire they is a fair trial.

So you want to post just to make a point ?

Occasionally you have to way up the freedoms to ensure the greater freedom of a fair trial wins out.

It doesn't matter if others post the info online. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#24734889)

Here, in Florida, in Hillsborough County, the sheriff's office has on their website an arrest inquiry page, which lists all people who've been arrested along with their photo. Now, my brother has been arrested, and never convicted of anything, and in spite of this, it's now nearly impossible for him to get a low-wage job. People, employers, they equate being arrested for something with guilt, not with a false accusation or an amateur cop. It doesn't really matter if other people post the info online, its the official record employers will look at. Arrest and charge records OUGHT NOT be public, they harm the innocent and have no effect on the guilty (because their conviction record would be there anyway). Our system is ruined.

"Accused" Is a Collective (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 4 years ago | (#24735221)

Accused can represent a person or persons. So therefore shouldn't the plural possessive be "Accused's" and not "Accuseds'"?
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