Bendigo police have warned that people who post “offensive and degrading” material on social networking sites will be tracked down and charged.
The warning comes after Josh Turner – the creator of “Benders root rate” Facebook page – was convicted and sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term.
The landmark case, in the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Tuesday, was the first time someone has been criminally prosecuted for setting up an “offensive” Facebook page in Australia.
Senior Constable Cameron Dean, the police informant in charge of the Turner case, said people posting offensive material on the internet could face a raft of charges.
Senior Constable Dean said they could be charged under the Stalking Act as well as the offences Turner was convicted of: using a carriage service to offend and publishing offensive material on a information service.
He said legislation was constantly adapting to keep up with changes to media and technology, and police were, too.
“The stalking act changes all the time, moving with changes to social media and mobile phones,” he said.
Senior Constable Dean said there was a lot of unsavoury content on sites such as Facebook, but that police were concerned with the “extreme” end of the scale.
“Unacceptable behaviour includes continued harassment, using these social networks to bully people, especially young schoolkids, and posting any offensive or objectionable material,” he said.
“It’s not just what the complainant was offended by, but any material that a reasonable person deems to be offensive. What was actually being said in this (Turner) case, it was actually at the extreme end of the scale, it was a very degrading and offensive comment.”
Senior Constable Dean said that meant people had to think twice about what they posted online.
“People just don’t realise how dangerous it is, especially when they leave their personal wall open to the public,” he said.
“They just need to realise it is a public domain and they need to be conscious of what they put out there because once they do it’s out there for good.
“People can still have free speech and post opinions, as long as it’s not offensive and degrading and having long-term effects on people.
“There’s a fine line, I admit, but in this case it was straight down the line, it was an extreme case.”