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What you post on Facebook can now land you in gaol. A 20 year old Sydney man was recently gaoled for six months after he posted nude pictures of his ex-girlfriend on the social networking site.

He posted six revealing and embarrassing photos of her on his Facebook site and then emailed her to tell her the photos were on Facebook. She ran to his flat and demanded he remove them. When he refused, she called the police. He told police the woman had hurt him and it was the only thing he had to hurt her. He invited a mutual friend to join his page as a friend so he would see the photos.

In a legal first for posting on a social networking site, he was found guilty of “publishing an indecent article”.

Under section 578C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) an article can include “anything that is looked at” and publish can include “distributing, disseminating, circulating or delivering” the article. The maximum penalty is 12 months gaol and a fine of $11,000.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley said there was a “need to prevent crime by deterring both the offender and the community generally from committing similar crimes.  This is a particularly relevant consideration in a matter such as this where new age technology through Facebook gives instant access to the world.

“Incalculable damage can be done to a persons’ reputation by the irresponsible posting of information through that medium. With its popularity and potential for real harm, there is a genuine need to ensure the use of the medium to commit offences of this type is deterred.”

The man’s sentence of six months gaol served as home detention was later overturned on appeal to a suspended sentence.

Under Federal law there can be three years gaol for publication and dissemination of material through telecommunications that is intended to threaten, harm or is menacing or offensive. Two military cadets are facing charges under these laws for allegedly skyping a female cadet having sex with a colleague without her knowledge.

While only a handful of charges have emerged so far, it’s a clear warning that the law is catching up with technology. Try to humiliate, harass or threaten people through social media and you could face gaol time. Even those who post photos of people charged with serious crimes or call them killers or murderers can face charges of contempt of court. People are being sued for their tweets.

There is no longer open slather on the internet.

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