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NZ Judge Bans Online Publishing of Accuseds' Names 219

Posted by timothy
from the a-bit-arbitrary dept.
The Master Moose writes "A judge in New Zealand has banned the press from reporting online the names of two men accused of murder. The names of the men will be allowed to be reported in print as well as through Television and Radio broadcast. It would seem he has taken this step to prevent someone 'googling' these peoples names in the future and finding them linked to a crime if found innocent."
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NZ Judge Bans Online Publishing of Accuseds' Names

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  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by haltenfrauden27 (1338125) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:03AM (#24734231) Homepage

    Ok, so the judge banned the press from doing this. But it's impossible to stop some random person (probably not even in New Zealand) from posting this information online. Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

    • I think we need to liscence who gets access to this "internet" you speak of since it's clearly dangerous.
      Bets that this judge is some OAP who was shown by his grandson how you could "google" someone...

      • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:12AM (#24734301)
        From TFA:

        Judge Harvey teaches the Law and Information Technology course at the University of Auckland. The course looks at the way technology impacts on evidence, jurisdiction and freedom of information.
        Judge Harvey has also written a textbook on the internet and law called internet.law.nz.

        • And yet somehow he fails to understand the Streisand effect... and the fact that any Joe Slob can post anything on the net with complete anonymity if they so wish.

          • there's no such thing as complete anonymity on the net.

            this banning gesture might be well-intentioned but is misinformed an impossible tom implement

            • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:48AM (#24734483)

              Hah!
              unless the NSA or magical imps are after you then complete anonymity can be gained by a few simple steps.

              1: Find 3 or more VPN/proxy services located in different countries. Look for ones which claim to not keep any logs.
              2: Change your MAC address.
              3: Drive out to some random carpark with your laptop and hop on an open network/WEP network.
              4: Connect through proxies/VPN's.
              5: Do whatever the fuck you want.

              Anyone who can trace you at this point has magical powers or already knows who you are and has cameras in your shower.

              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Drantin (569921) *

                Or step 5 includes enough information to discover your identity...

              • by MrNaz (730548) on Monday August 25, 2008 @08:30AM (#24735353) Homepage

                Alternatively, use Tor [torproject.org].

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by iminplaya (723125)

                Look for ones which claim to not keep any logs.

                LOL That's a good one.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by Sophia Ricci (1337419)

              there's no such thing as complete anonymity on the net.

              Why not? It is very easy to spoof packets into net hiding your identity entirely. There are websites [proxylord.com] that allow you to post on any web sites anonymously. There are tools like "IP Address changer" [iprivacytools.com] to protect your privacy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rangataua (820853)
          My guess is that this is a experiment by the Judge in question to see what difference (if any) the ban will make (this is a high profile case in NZ).
        • by Maelwryth (982896) on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:27AM (#24734657)
          Heres a link [radionz.co.nz] to the audio of the midday report.
      • by jesterzog (189797) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:55AM (#24734513) Homepage Journal

        Bets that this judge is some OAP who was shown by his grandson how you could "google" someone...

        Actually what's particularly interesting about this case is that the judge also teaches Information Technology and has written a text-book on cyber law in New Zealand, and he's made a submission to the NZ government about spam legislation [med.govt.nz] which I haven't read, but you could probably look at if you want some guideline idea of his IT competence.

        One of New Zealand's media commentators with a lot of IT experience (Russell Brown [publicaddress.net], for whom I have a lot of respect) threw in a few comments over here [stuff.co.nz], and wasn't immediately condemning of the actions of the judge. Brown commented that he thinks this judge probably has more technical knowledge of the Internet than any other judge in the country, and coming from him it's either quite compelling or very detrimental to every other judge.

        New Zealand's had problems in the past with courts trying to suppress names, particularly in cases when there's been international interest in the case, because the suppression orders only apply in New Zealand. I don't understand what he expects to achieve except possibly hoping that jurors won't be able to hide at home and google the names as easily during critical points in the trial, especially since the details of this trial are unlikely to gather much interest outside NZ. I think Brown's theory that this is an experimental act from the judge to see what happens sounds fairly feasible.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          In Norway media are always banned from reporting the name of a suspect until the name is offically released by proper authorities.
          This applies to print, tv and other media.

          This is to protect the suspect until he or she is actually found guilty of a crime. If the case is high profile of course the name will leak out but it is still not printed or reported on through TV.

          I personally think this is a good way to do it as even being a suspect of some crimes can screw your life up quite a bit. In the case of inte

        • by boyko.at.netqos (1024767) on Monday August 25, 2008 @09:23AM (#24735853)

          Indeed, it's actually quite interesting - there was a supression order against the "Uruowea 17" and originally names could NOT have been published. (As far as I can tell, faces still cannot be in those cases.)

          What was weird was that I was actually planning to hire Rongomai Bailey as a cameraman - because of the supression order, I made the decision to hire him AFTER he was arrested but before the suppresion order on his name was lifted.

          Although I believe him to be absolutely, 100% innocent of all charges, I consider myself lucky (because I'm living in the oh-so-free U.S.,) that he never came on the payroll. You end up with all sorts of problems when the T-word is bandied around.

    • by florescent_beige (608235) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:14AM (#24734319) Journal

      Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

      Maybe you should think a little harder about how humans work.

      Is the internet a tool in the service of mankind or vice-versa? Anything the internet wants the internet gets? What if the internet wants to publish every hot chat you ever had with who you thought was a woman but was actually a 9 year old boy? It's the internet, we have to give it what it wants, sorry.

      • by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:24AM (#24734371) Homepage

        Is the internet a tool in the service of mankind or vice-versa? Anything the internet wants the internet gets?

        Your missing the point entirely. You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them. Between them and google this means their names will be all over the Internet anyway. The only effect it will have is to make online publishers into second class press, a group that has to self-censor or be censored because the Internet is such a dangerous place. If there's anything like freedom of the press in NZ, I'd appeal that one all the way over the discrimination compared to other media.

        • by florescent_beige (608235) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:55AM (#24734509) Journal

          You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them.

          If I google someone and find only blog gossip that is different from finding an article in the New York Times. 99% of blogs are no more than two ladies with their hair in curlers talking over the back fence.

          I believe this will become more and more true in the future when it will become clear that random blogs can and often do contain outright lies.

          Let's say I mouth off about totalitarian China. Then some Chinese operative (love that word, so rarely get to use it in a sentence) writes a blog falsely claiming to have read about my child molestation trial in the Sydney Morning Herald. How long before every single person on the planet has their character assassinated that way? Not long I bet.

          Having said all that I don't dispute you have a point. I can think of ways around these things, none of them perfect, all of them painful. The alternative is to give up age-old ideas of privacy. Which should we do?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Kjella (173770)

            If I google someone and find only blog gossip that is different from finding an article in the New York Times.

            Except you find the blogs with
            a) Link to the online article
            b) Reference to the offline article with the name

            In many ways that's actually worse, because most people won't bother to check the reference and just assume the blog is correct. The point here is that there are reliable sources beyond blogs with the name, and they are just trying to make it difficult to connect the dots. If no part of the press would report the name that'd at least make some sense...

        • Indeed, that's what worries me about the gag order. If he wants to prevent their names from being "googled" then that's fine. But at this point, ou're talking about prior restraint against a -particular type- of press.

          New Zealand has no particular restriction against prior restraint (though they're generally loathe to practice it except in criminal cases like this) but the decision should extend to the papers - it's not like anyone doing a background check on hiring people for the job won't start calling

        • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday August 25, 2008 @10:48AM (#24736991)

          You can't control Internet by gagging a few editors because the Internet is full of normal people blogging away about the things that interest them.

          Are your "normal people" also too stupid to understand why the judge's preference in this case might be guided by a well-informed sense of justice, and to acknowledge that he might actually be right? Do you really believe that everyone's right to know everything (whether or not it is actually true, and regardless of the practical implications) is far more important than an innocent person's right not to be tarnished for life for something they did not do?

          I, for one, am very glad that someone intimately familiar with both the justice system and the real world implications of the Internet has stopped to think about the balance between public oversight of the judicial system and open government on the one hand, and a private citizen's rights to privacy and due process on the other. Personally, I'm 100% with the judge on this one.

          If this doesn't work voluntarily, it may become necessary to anonymize court proceedings, so the defendant, witnesses, etc. are identified only by artificial names until the conclusion of a case (and the real names never released by the court in the event that the defendant is found not guilty). Frankly, I'd prefer that anyway, since I think it better serves the interests of justice while still keeping courts open and subject to a healthy level of oversight, but whether it is reasonable for a judge to start ordering this sort of thing unilaterally to make a point is a different question. Indeed, the extent of a lone judge's powers in cases like this, and to which they can or should lobby government for changes in the legal framework where their experience indicates it would be helpful, are all interesting questions.

          Anyway, more power to this judge. If nothing else, his actions will raise important philosophical and ethical questions that are long overdue being addressed in the Internet age.

    • by Maelwryth (982896)
      "Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works."

      I think the Judge has a fairly good idea about how the internet works. But, this is more about how people work. What he is trying to stop is jurors googling the information. It appears, according to Radio New Zealand this morning, that jurors have been googling peoples names and then seeing what popped up. Imagine the jurors in the Hans Reiser case getting a good dose of Slashdot......very impartial. New Zealand's no

    • by stephanruby (542433) on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:35AM (#24734701)

      Sounds like maybe this judge needs to think a little harder about how the Internet works.

      No, this is happening because he's been thinking way too much on this topic already.

      The judge suffers from a weird case of self-centered career thesis myopia. He wrote a thesis/book titled internet.law.nz. He teaches a course on this very topic at the University of Auckland. He considers himself an expert in that area. And this is basically what happens when you make your local expert know-it-all -- a real judge -- with real powers. Common sense goes out the window, and super-conflated thesis-related academic mental masturbation takes over his every case.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bogtha (906264)

        And this is basically what happens when you make your local expert know-it-all -- a real judge -- with real powers. Common sense goes out the window, and super-conflated thesis-related academic mental masturbation takes over his every case.

        Holy shit, I never thought I'd see the day when a Slashdotter complained that a judge knows what he's talking about and that it would be better if he were clueless. All those awful technologically inane rulings that ignorant judges hand down come from "common sense".

    • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Swampash (1131503) on Monday August 25, 2008 @07:24AM (#24734915)

      I happen to know this particular Judge. You know how I met him? Playing Quake deathmatches back in the nineties. He was handy with a rocket launcher, was great base defence in CTF matches, and trash-talked like a motherfucker. Anyway, the point I'm trying to work my way around to is that this particular Judge is probably the most net-savvy online officer of the court you could ever meet. This Judge had a personal hand in the design and implementation of the in-court computer networks used in the NZ court system. Hell, this is a Judge who goes to LAN PARTIES. So I'm going to assume that he knows EXACTLY what the real-world implications of his ruling are, and he is trying to balance some conflicting principles that he cannot ignore.

      So yeah, comments insinuating that this Judge doesn't know how the Internet works are off-target. This guy has been part of the online scene since before half the script kiddies here were born.

    • by rbanffy (584143)

      I think the press has the duty of disclosing those names in responsible fashion. The web is somewhat of a permanent public record. You obviously won't like if someone published the fact that you were accused - or arrested - of possessing kiddy-porn and fail completely to update the page when you are cleared of all accusations.

      In that regard, it would be smarter to allow on-line publishing, but holding the publisher responsible for updating the page if charges are dropped and applying steep penalties for fai

    • He'll find his ass in jail - that is the point. Sick vigilantes gotta learn their place is locked up forever.

      • by mea37 (1201159)

        Ok... however, reporting the names of the accused is not vigilanteism. If it were, it would be illegal in all media.

        The judge points out a valid problem with the way information persists on the Internet -- particularly in that caches like Google's become a permanent, public, and for practical purposes impossible to update/correct record of information. The record is so tightly frozen in time that "future context" (such as a person later being found not guilty) is absent (or at least you have to go looking

    • by Tim C (15259)

      The notion that because 100% success is impossible one should not even try is common and defeatist. What's wrong with making as much of a difference as you can?

      It's particularly ironic given your sig - you can't stop telemarketers completely either.

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:04AM (#24734235)

    the internet is scary.

  • Should be standard (Score:5, Informative)

    by matt4077 (581118) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:07AM (#24734261) Homepage

    In the small part of Europe I live in, it's common practice (even written in a non-binding "codex") not to publish the pictures or names of accused. It's obvious that the "This guy raped a child" headline will stick while "Trial ends, accused absolved" will sometimes not even be published.

    Yes, it should be voluntary, but it's the right thing to do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HungryHobo (1314109)

      Oh I agree, either ban the mainstream media from publishing that kind of thing altogether on the basis of "innocent until proven guilty" or require that they publish an innocent verdict in a case in the same manner that they publish that the person is accused.
      Think in terms of if they have 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page spreads about how someone is accused of killing little Maddie then when that person is found guilty or the charges dropped they have to have at least 5 front page headlines and 3 2 page

      • *when that person is found not guilty or the charges dropped

        what is it with me and typing today...

      • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:30AM (#24734411) Homepage Journal
        The problem is that publishing an equally large headline saying they've been acquitted will NOT equate to reversing the damage done by the original headlines. Show humans a horrible accusation and then immediately show them a claim that the original accusations aren't true and a fair share of us will STILL believe the original accusation, or remember the original accusation but not the retraction later on, or remember both but still be thinking "what if" and treat the person accused as if the accusations were true. And that is even assuming all the same people ready it. In fact, given how humans think, a fair number of people who did NOT read the names in the original accusations might believe the original accusations once they see the retractions.

        I don't know what the right answer is, but I do think media does have a responsibility to thread carefully. They can't hide behind the "but people have a right to know" when they know there is a good chance they will be ruining someones life forever even if what they report is written in ways that are factually true - they don't live in a vaccum, and even if they are legally on solid ground, there are ethical and moral issues to take into account.

        Often, I question what their motives even are with publishing the names. If the person in question is being kept in custody during the trial there is no compelling public interest in making the name and picture public unless the police is still looking for more information, for example. If the person is free, I can see some interest particularly in the local area, but that wouldn't justify a national newspaper plastering it over the front page for example.

        The name will mean nothing to most people until it's been hammered into their heads by the media. But afterwards that person is effectively screwed whether or not they're found guilty.

        • You're right.

          I've run into enough of those damned "think of the children" crowd to know that there are people out there who think that anyone ever accused of being a pedophile should be put on the sex offenders register/killed without trial even if found completely and totally innocent because "nothing is too much to make sure our children are safe!!!!!"

      • by jacquesm (154384) <j.ww@com> on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:55AM (#24734507) Homepage

        Better yet, allow the party that was found to be not guilty to enter a suit claiming damages against anybody that distributed the information.

        Trial by media is not the way to get a good judicial system.

      • From an earlier comment of yours:

        I think we need to liscence who gets access to this "internet" you speak of since it's clearly dangerous.

        From your current post (the parent):

        Oh I agree, either ban the mainstream media from publishing that kind of thing altogether...

        Assuming you were being sarcastic in the top quote, you appear to have double standards on censorship of the internet and censorship of mainstream media. Just thought you should know.

        • I just take the view that the mainstream is censored anyway. On the net censorship is very very hard to pull off on a large scale. Any one site might censor stuff but as a whole it's almost impossible to get something off the web once people have taken an interest in it.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:42AM (#24734465) Homepage

      I wonder if it's the same corner as me, here's the bit from the Norwegian press ethics:

      4.7. Be cautious in the use of names and photographs and other clear identifiers of persons in referring to contentious or punishable matters. Special caution should be exercised when reporting cases at the early stage of investigation, cases concerning young offenders and cases in which an identifying report may place an unreasonable burden on a third party. Identification must be founded on a legitimate need for information. It may, for instance, be legitimate to identify someone where there is imminent danger of assault on defenceless individuals, in the case of serious and repeated crimes, if the identity or social position of the subject is patently relevant to the case being reported on, or where identification protects the innocent from exposure to unjustified suspicion.

      As an ethical rule, I prefer this default that the press will not report on the accused's identity unless there's good reason to. On the other hand, I'm far from certain I'd like a judge to forcibly suppress the names, as you can see there are legitimate exceptions and from time to time people are identified. If push came to shove, I'd rather trust the press not to publish details out of ethics than trust the government not to suppress details they don't want me to hear.

      • by daveime (1253762) on Monday August 25, 2008 @08:10AM (#24735213)

        I can't think of ANY reason to publish the name of ANYBODY "accused" of anything, for the simple reason that they are STILL innocent at that point.

        When the eventual verdict is delivered as guilty, then and ONLY THEN, can it be published that "Mr A N Other found guilty of charge" - NOT BEFORE.

        Many innocent people's reputations have been destroyed due to this system, and it's simply not right. neither is publish the name and then (maybe) publish a redaction at a later point in time ... the damage has already been done by then.

        It's the same as the judge instructing the jury to "forget the last witnesses statement" etc ... we cannot be programmed like machines to forget, and once tarred with a certain brush, it is not easy to remove that image from the mind of the general public.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TubeSteak (669689)

          I can't think of ANY reason to publish the name of ANYBODY "accused" of anything, for the simple reason that they are STILL innocent at that point.

          Court records are public documents.

          For your wish to come true, all the court filings will have to be The State vs John/Jane Doe. Then the Court docket would just be a list of "The State vs John/Jane Doe" and a case number... which is worse than meaningless. Police reports (also public documents) would have to have names removed. Mug shots (also public records) would have to have the names removed.

          Many innocent people's reputations have been destroyed due to this system, and it's simply not right.

          This is much like freedom of speech: with the good comes the bad.
          And ultimately, transparency is better than sec

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Do it anyway for high profile cases and consider the legal fees and whatnot a cost of business.

      All that will end up doing is making the names of the accused in high profile cases very, very valuable. Granted though, a majority of newspapers with upstanding editors would fall in line.

      I don't know if this would fly in America, though. Freedom of speech and all that.

  • It is a very hackish solution to the "problem" defined by the judge. Obviously there will be people blogging about it and newspapers outside the country carrying their names online because of the attention this case will receive now (ironically because of the judge's actions). If anything the accused will be even more "famous"...

    • by Petrushka (815171)

      I reckon it's the only thing that can conceivably work, short of a blanket name suppression for all accused criminals forever. It may work, it may not. We'll see.

      In its favour, the point is not to keep their names a secret, but to prevent the names from appearing on major news sites and news aggregators that will be permanently searchable by potential employers et al for the rest of eternity. In the event of a "not guilty" verdict, I don't imagine that there will be quite as much prejudice against the accus

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:07AM (#24734267)
    ... that seems entirely reasonable.

    Until people such as employers, potential girl/boy-friends realise that:

    1.) there are more than one person with each name

    2.) almost nothing on the internet is corroborated, valdated or authenticated, it's mostly rumour - so far as individuals go

    3.) old information never dies and bad new travels much faster than good news

    Then it's a hopelessly unreliable medium for information to make judgements about someone.

    • Common sense, alas is not all that common. In fact *anything* that you get from a third party is hearsay, and should be treated with caution.

    • old information never dies and bad new travels much faster than good news

      In fact, you can propel a rather large spaceship with bad news; it will make it travel faster than light, but won't be welcome anywhere. How infinitely improbable is that, huh? ;)

    • by smchris (464899)

      Obviously controversial, but I agree in the main. The judge clearly _does_ understand one thing about the internet that distinguishes it from other media.

    • Unfortunately, for me to decide not to believe the internet, doesn't make employers, GFs, etc. not believe it.

      So, what we as geeks need to do to speed up the process you describe, is a full-on directory googlebomb. Make it so that the top results for each and every name (or as many as possible) have horrible allegations about them as the first results.

      Oh, you found bad stuff about me on the internet? Let's google YOUR name and see what turns up, shall we?

      That *may* make Google useless for learning about s

  • by Zarhan (415465) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:09AM (#24734277)

    Folks might be crying censorship. Of course it's a band-aid to the sensationalism - but got any better ideas? The accusations will be on front pages of tabloids since MURDER SELLS. If these guys get cleared as not guilty, it will be on page 10 as a tiny note, if even that. Guess which one Google catches?

    Other option might be that everyone who makes news about the accusations should make similar headlines of the end of trial regardless of whether they were convicted or not...

    • Guess which one Google catches?

      Both?

      • by Zarhan (415465)

        Rephrase: Guess which one Google presents as the first few thousand hits?

        • I don't know, it tends to be pretty big news when someone is found innocent of a crime such as murder.

          Then again, there's many, many murders that happen which get absolutely no press beyond a line in the police blog section of the news paper. Not everything gets covered, or cared about, like OJ and Nancy Holloway.

          • by jimicus (737525)

            I don't know, it tends to be pretty big news when someone is found innocent of a crime such as murder.

            It's big news when it's a celebrity (either victim or accused, eg. OJ Simpson in the US or Jill Dando in the UK) or there was something deemed by the press as "important" (eg. a child was involved).

            Otherwise, it certainly isn't big news.

    • by mcbridematt (544099) on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:04AM (#24734559) Homepage Journal
      In Australia a supposed pedophile case was recently thrown out by a judge who considered a fair trial with all the media attention impossible. Ever since judges have applied suppression orders to stop the names going out to the public.
  • Privacy of Courts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Monday August 25, 2008 @05:13AM (#24734309) Homepage

    I've always thought withholding names of the accused was a damn good idea. An innocent person should not have his life, reputation, or finances ruined, and the fact of the matter is, an accusation (even if false) can be damning for life.

    However, this runs counter to the "openness" requirement of democracies: that the public should be able to discover what their public officials are doing. In this case, court cases must be a matter of public record so that transparency of the judicial branch can be maintained. You wouldn't want the judges/DA's/police doing secret prosecutions.

    So, does some happy medium exist? Can we withhold the names of the accused in print/internet and maintain judicial transparency? This could fall under defamation or slander laws if the person is later found innocent. There are mechanisms in place to recover costs for innocent people, but none to recover the damage done to reputations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HungryHobo (1314109)

      I agree, I'm just bothered by the fact that the other forms of media didn't suffer a similar ban, tabloids can bring on witch hunts more easily than the internet.

      "the public should be able to discover what their public officials are doing"
      I assume you mean if some public official is taken to court. Keep in mind that until they're found guiltly it must be assumed that they've done nothing wrong but give the accused the ability to waive their right to anonymity if they want media attention and have the right

      • by mcelrath (8027)

        I agree, I'm just bothered by the fact that the other forms of media didn't suffer a similar ban, tabloids can bring on witch hunts more easily than the internet.

        With respect to this particular article, I agree. The ban should be universal and prosecutable. i.e. if J.Random posts the name of the accused, then the accused should be able to sue for defamation. (or some similar recourse)

        I assume you mean if some public official is taken to court.

        No, I mean when anyone is taken to court. Imagine a polic

    • So, does some happy medium exist?

      Not likely. It's not one of those things where you can pick a gray area, since you can't partially disclose the identity or the crime, it's all or nothing.

      I'm all for the freedom of information in this regards. If the locals are too immature to handle themselves, then that's their problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vidarh (309115)
      There's nothing stopping restrictions that essentially make it legal only to publish the name in official proceedings, and make people jump to a tiny extra hoop to get at them. It doesn't need to be impossible to get at - you just need to prevent it from being shoved in peoples places.

      If I have to go to the courts website and dig around a little to find the court papers and download a document to see the name, you've effectively cut off 99.999% or whatever of the population from ever bothering. Why? Becau

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MichaelSmith (789609)

        There's nothing stopping restrictions that essentially make it legal only to publish the name in official proceedings, and make people jump to a tiny extra hoop to get at them. It doesn't need to be impossible to get at - you just need to prevent it from being shoved in peoples places.

        But the internet makes it easy to get around measures like this. For example google might index the court website. Its a bit like how your phone number was right there in the phone book but as soon as it became possible to search for a person by number it became an issue for some people.

    • by MrMr (219533)
      Around here we've had a voluntary intermediate solution for a long time: the media withold name and recognizable pictures of the accused during trial.
      The problem is that in big cases the foreign press will happily publish the details anyway.
    • by Xuranova (160813)

      I've always been against mentioning the name of the accused in court. If they request it, everyone should be under a gag under to keep their name and face out of the media/court docs until found guilty. They do a pretty damn good job of it under rape shield (which I'm against) so it shouldn't be too hard to do for the defendant.

    • Where I live names of accused are always published with only the first name and last initial. Joe B. could be anyone.

      I'm not quite sure whether there even is an "openness" requirement for democracy. However, being open/transparent doesn't necessarily include full access to all information all the time. That is a fiction anyway, it certainly doesn't exist in any court I know (except ones you can bribe).

      Can we withhold names and maintain transparency? Hell yes. Making th information available in the fir
    • by jacquesm (154384)

      In nl as a rule people that are under suspicion but that have not been found guilty (yet) are identified by their initials or firstname and initial letter of lastname only.

      This leads to some funny situations where *everybody* knows who we're talking about but still you only see the initials.

  • For a twist on this story, recall the recent story about the effort by convicted sex offenders to expunge or not list their names and crimes on the Internet? It seems reasonable not to list the names of the merely accused, but conviction records are public record. I can see how there may be some discussion on how and what detail may be required, such as requiring the listing of the actual crimes found guilty of, but banning the publication of convicted criminals doesn't sit right with me. I'm thinking of
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Monday August 25, 2008 @06:38AM (#24734713) Homepage

    ...is not to publish a single word about it when it happens.

    The WTC thing should have been banned from TV instead broadcasting of years of endless replays for the terrorists to be proud of.

    Without our sensationalist press, they probably wouldn't bother. What would be the point?

    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      How would you implement this? Self-control by a media which decides what's good for you to know, or government censhorship which bans information about major events, because you can't handle the truth anyway? Of course for this to work you'd also need strict control of the internet, so that people can't look at foreign media either - print publications from other countries would have to go to the censorship office before being made accessable to US citizens, etc.

      I know it's very comfortable to blame the "

  • As far as it goes in countries where one is presumed innocent until proven guilty: They are innocent.

    And as such, the court cannot find them innocent because they already are. However, the court might later find them not-guilty (status quo) or guilty (new status).

  • It's the attitude the media (press) has. We see court cases all the time, profiling the defendant. If they get convicted, they put even more coverage on - but if they don't, they just drop the story, it never gets advertised that the person was innocent.

    Not only that, but the way the press (or at least, the BBC and newspapers I see) seem to broadcast without the innocent until proven guilty attitude. I mean, they don't ever say the defendant is guilty, but they do seem to gloss over the fact they could b
    • by Petrushka (815171)

      It's the attitude the media (press) has. We see court cases all the time, profiling the defendant. If they get convicted, they put even more coverage on - but if they don't, they just drop the story, it never gets advertised that the person was innocent.

      To be fair, in NZ news there has been one notable exception [wikipedia.org] to this principle of "charged once = guilty forever" -- though the re-trial hasn't taken place yet.

  • No it won't stop somebody from blogging about it
    Yes it is still easy to find out who they are.

    However: If somebody's name is in an online newspaper article it is MUCH easier to find through search engine's like google. Newspapers are also vastly more likely to still have their pages up and running in 10 years time, they are more likely to be referenced again by other articles etc... Thus while this certainly does not prevent peopel from fidning the identity of the accused, it drastically reduces the probabi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2008 @07:17AM (#24734889)
    Here, in Florida, in Hillsborough County, the sheriff's office has on their website an arrest inquiry page, which lists all people who've been arrested along with their photo. Now, my brother has been arrested, and never convicted of anything, and in spite of this, it's now nearly impossible for him to get a low-wage job. People, employers, they equate being arrested for something with guilt, not with a false accusation or an amateur cop. It doesn't really matter if other people post the info online, its the official record employers will look at. Arrest and charge records OUGHT NOT be public, they harm the innocent and have no effect on the guilty (because their conviction record would be there anyway). Our system is ruined.
  • Accused can represent a person or persons. So therefore shouldn't the plural possessive be "Accused's" and not "Accuseds'"?
  • Linking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dolohov (114209) on Monday August 25, 2008 @09:06AM (#24735727)

    It seems to me that one of the big problems is that news web sites consider their past articles and issues to be semi-sacred. They have a real phobia sometimes about changing old web sites (never mind the fact that it's frequently just not feasible) On the other hand, when new information comes out on a story, each new article links back to the old articles on the subject, which just as frequently do not link back.

    The result is two-fold. With more links to the original "So-and-so accused of murder" page, that's going to come up earlier when searching on that person's name. First impressions, and all that, particularly for really heinous crimes. Second, those initial pages will often not contain information on the outcome or links to articles on the outcome. This means that you have to care enough to sift through the rest of the results to find out whether the guy was actually guilty. How many people would bother, and how many would just file the name away under "murderer" and go on with their other browsing?

  • I was unjustly arrested on a gun charge in Los Angeles fifteen years ago, and I would be just fine with having that information on the web for anyone to Google. Why? Because if it ever comes up as an issue in the future, I can use the same technology to instantly prove my innocence.

    The reason such information is public is so that both sides have equal access to the truth. If knowledge that someone has been arrested and charged with a crime becomes secret information, then that will lead to secret prosecutio

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jvkjvk (102057)

      I was unjustly arrested on a gun charge in Los Angeles fifteen years ago, and I would be just fine with having that information on the web for anyone to Google. Why? Because if it ever comes up as an issue in the future, I can use the same technology to instantly prove my innocence.

      Except what will happen (and probably even has) is that people will not confront you with this information. You will have no way to prove your innocence. They will have already read the charge and moved on. This is especially true of employers.

      How do you think you are going to prove you innocence when no one bothers to talk to you about it?

      And, even if you have the chance to "prove your innocence" the fact that you've been arrested is enough to tip some people's minds against you, some consciously many m

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday August 25, 2008 @11:16AM (#24737333) Homepage Journal

    I don't see what legitimate basis exists for publishing the names or other identifying info of people who are merely accused. There are real costs to being publicly accused, without justification that the person is necessarily guilty.

    Public accusation of a crime should be equal to slander unless there's proof that the accused is actually guilty. Therefore publishing it in print should be libel.

    Publish the names of those found guilty. That's a fact. But until then, slamming everyone who's accused just puts a weapon into any accuser's hands, wreaking havoc on plenty of people who never did anything but draw the attention of a liar, or just someone reckless with the truth.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Then what you're asking is a secret court.

      European countries did that prior to the USA. That's why ours is open court, and the accused has a right to cross-examine witnesses, along with knowing who they are.

      China has a closed court for their "political" branch.. yet the US allows documents like the Pentagon Papers to be published, with a Supreme Court ruling.

  • by Moleculo (1321509) on Monday August 25, 2008 @12:14PM (#24738163)
    Publishing the names of the accused has value beyond letting you know who (allegedly) is commiting crimes. It also serves as a check on the state's ability to lock up whoever they want for whatever reason they conceive. The public has no ability to judge the propriety of "a 26-year-old white male" getting arrested, or to come forward with information that might be relevant to the investigation. It's a lot easier if you know who they are, and it's vital to the fight against the police state.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sydneyfong (410107)

      There is a difference between having the names in the court papers, available on request, and the names on the headlines of major media outlets.

      Of course there's a certain gray area in between, but in this case it's quite clear cut that the public has no need to know the names of the accused...

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