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Racist and insulting comments made on social media sites

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Published under Law Reform, Offences

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August 3, 2016

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Not too long ago it seemed like “keyboard warriors” could get away with any comments they posted online, no matter how offensive, because they could hide behind the safety of their computer screen. However, with the continual rise of social media, the police are starting to crack down on racist and insulting comments made on such social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.

Laws governing offensive comments have recently been brought to light by the racist remarks made by a member of the public towards the outgoing Senator Nova Peris. The man in question was charged under s474.17 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) for using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence. This is a Commonwealth offence which carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. The threshold of whether a comment causes offence is whether a reasonable person would have taken offence to the comment.

With the increased use of social media, the Court and Police are cracking down on all potential trolling on the internet. The Court has sent a clear message that there will be serious consequences that can stem from an ill-advised comments on social media sites and that there is a high chance that a term of imprisonment will be the likely penalty. This was demonstrated by recently by a Queensland magistrate, who sentenced a woman to a 3 month suspended sentence for writing inappropriate comments on a Facebook tribute page for a murdered lady.

These heavy handed sentences have been handed down by the Courts to deter any future trolling of people on these sites.

About the Author

John is partner of Armstrong Legal and head of the Criminal Law Division. The experience John possesses, being a high quality mix of defence and prosecution skills, together with his team at Armstrong Legal, mean you can be certain of accurate, dependable and practical advice on how your matter can dealt with.

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