Police get tough on Facebook clashes

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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Central Otago police are cracking down on fights organised through social networking websites before they gain traction.

Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk said police would take a "hardline approach" to any such fights after an incident near Alexandra on Sunday.

At 12.20pm police had a tip-off that a fight had been arranged through Facebook to be held at a rural area near Alexandra between a 42-year-old man and a group of teenagers, he said.

"A 42-year-old Alexandra man was spoken to by police . . . and given advice about the consequences if he chose to continue with his intended actions. To his credit he took that advice on board and left the area."

Several cars containing young people were also stopped in the area and although they denied knowledge of the fight, they were given similar advice, he said.

"This is something that police will not tolerate. If we become aware of people trying to set up fights via Facebook we will investigate with the view of putting those involved before the courts.

"We will also look at whether we can request a review of their account by Facebook staff."

Fights organised through social media websites were unusual for Central Otago, Kerrisk said.

"We don't want it to become a usual event and are keen to ensure it's nipped in the bud, which is why we are taking a hardline approach."

Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said it was not a surprise that fights were being organised through social media websites.

"People organise everything from parties to national uprisings so it's no surprise . . . I guess the key thing is you have the additional opportunity when people organise any criminal activity on Facebook other people on that network can report it. That's the positive benefit."

Cocker said that if people were using Facebook to break the law, Facebook would assist law enforcement within reason.

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