Editorial: A collision of worlds

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2013

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OPINION: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - it is a new world with new rules.

Or no rules. Instant, instant, instant.

Privacy? What's that?

Yet there are also old rules and some of those are sacrosanct.

Like name suppression in court.

And if you breach that, well, that is called contempt and judges don't like it.

In court on Tuesday a Timaru woman admitted naming on Facebook a man who had been granted name suppression. His was a high-profile case and she was in court in December when he first appeared.

She was upset and angry at the time, and posted his name immediately afterwards.

No excuse, the judge said on Tuesday.

The breach smacks of worlds colliding. The internet cares little for old world rules. Defamation, privacy, copyright, breaches of confidence - who cares?

And generally such breaches go unchecked, to the point where they are almost the norm.

Too hard to track the source, too hard to prosecute, and to what end? The genie is out of the bottle.

But sometimes a stand has to be made, as in this case.

And as in the case of the Christchurch man who posted video of those accused of assaulting Jesse Ryder, the problem being the pair had name suppression.

The poster received two months' community detention and 140 hours' community work.

And as in the case of blogger Cameron Slater who was fined $750 and ordered to pay court costs of $130 for each of nine suppression breaches.

Let such breaches go untested and you can throw court name suppression out the window; everyone would be doing it.

The Timaru woman may not have appreciated the seriousness of her actions, that her quick posting from her mobile phone to her Facebook page amounted to publication just as if a newspaper or broadcaster had done it.

And certainly the word spread that day on Facebook, as others picked up on the name and added their comments, many of them nasty.

Some could have led to their own charges.

Interesting, then, that these people have not also been prosecuted. Certainly if a newspaper was guilty of repeating a breach it could expect to be prosecuted.

One step at a time in tackling the new world, perhaps.

But the message in court this week was clear: some rules still can't be broken.

Well, not without consequences anyway.

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