Mayors condemn Facebook confessions

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 06/09/2012

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A Facebook page boasting of sordid sexual exploits, robberies and misadventures has painted Hawke's Bay as a hotbed of morally questionable behaviour - and home to a good many people with poor spelling and grammar.

OMG Hawke's Bay Confessions has attracted more than 3000 "likes" in the five days it has been running, as people anonymously reveal their infidelities, boast about where they've had sex, and even own up to robbing someone for revenge.

Police are monitoring the page and say they could act on postings revealing criminal behaviour.

"Police would not encourage people to post certain comments on that page which could either be perceived as offensive or illegal or sexually explicit," police spokeswoman Kris McGehan said.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule was appalled at the page.

"I just think it's rubbish; it's not worth the stuff it's written on."

Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said it appeared to be a platform for "non-thinking low-lifes" to play out "perverted fantasies".

She doubted the truthfulness in the posts but worried that the page had the potential to spiral out of control. "It's anonymous at this stage but it has the potential to be hurtful to individuals."

A similar page was closed down by Facebook earlier in the year. An anonymous administrator posted intimate details and spread rumours about Hawke's Bay teenagers on the Taradale Confessions page.

"The world has to expect more of this," Mrs Arnott said. "It's concerning because it's a thin end of something that could be a very big wedge.

"I don't think it will make any difference to Hawke's Bay. Communities are strong enough to turn the other cheek."

Confession pages exist for other New Zealand towns and cities but pages viewed by The Dominion Post yesterday were not as active or as graphic in detail.

OMG (oh my god) Wellington Confessions has 29 likes and a policy of not posting any secrets about rape, violence or abuse.

Dunedin Confessions, with four likes, states "nothing too cruel will be put up".

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said "gossip aggravator" type pages, which often targeted regions or schools, had been cropping up for the past few years.

Though they often portrayed their regions in a poor light, that was not enough for Facebook to take them down, Mr Cocker said. "Facebook doesn't particularly protect the reputation of a region. Facebook is an American company and therefore uses an American view of freedom of speech," he said.

"Facebook does, however, shut down pages that bully, intimidate or harass other users."

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The Law Commission recently released a report calling for a new electronic communications offence targeting digital communication that is "grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing, and which causes harm".

It also proposed setting up a communications tribunal to enforce take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices - but not to impose criminal sanctions or compensation. If implemented, a tribunal could unmask anonymous offenders.

POSTING SNIPPETS

Post 202: Few weeks ago my mate and I had a huge fight. I acted nice and made him dinner of mac and cheese but I added a secret spice which was my spit and soap.

Post 194: I was babysitting his kids and he came home drunk. He was rubbing my ass like a creep. I dont ever wanna go back there again. He's like 40 and I'm 14.

Post 179: My kids father was out with his mum. She convinced him to give her all our money. I went and robbed her house. I emptied the cupboards, took her TV . . . got her partners paint and poured it all over her clothes.

- The Dominion Post

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