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Jill Meagher case: Facebook refuses to remove possibly prejudicial comments

A series of hate pages against Adrian Bayley, the man charged with Jill Meagher’s murder, have sprung up in recent days.

AUSTRALIAN POLICE say Facebook has refused to take down a page containing offensive material about the man accused of murdering Irish woman Jill Meagher.

The search for the 29-year-old Drogheda woman, who vanished while walking home from a Melbourne bar earlier last weekend, sparked a huge social media campaign, with more than 122,000 people ‘Liking’ a Facebook page dedicated to the case before it was removed this morning.

But several hate pages sprung up after Meagher’s body was found in a shallow roadside grave 50km north-west of Melbourne and Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41, was charged with her rape and murder.

Meagher’s husband and the police have urged the public to refrain from commenting on Bayley or the highly publicised case, warning that any remarks made on social media sites had the potential to prejudice his trial.

Chief Victoria state police commissioner Ken Lay said Facebook had been approached about taking down one page in particular which contained offensive material about Bayley.

“Now, they’ve refused to do that,” Lay told commercial radio. ”We’ve all got a social responsibility. Facebook is part of our community and I would have thought that it would have only been reasonable,

We’ve got to remember that no matter how horrible this crime is, this gentleman has got to be afforded a fair trial. It’s not for Facebook pages or anyone else to be taking justice into their own hands.

Facebook later said it took its commitment to “rights and responsibilities very seriously and react(s) quickly to remove reported content that violates (its) policies.”

“(We may) restrict access to content in a country where we are advised that it violates local law,” the social media giant said in a statement to AFP, adding that it was in contact with law enforcement authorities in Victoria.

Lay said social media had been “enormously helpful” in the investigation of Meagher’s disappearance, with thousands of people flooding the “Help us find Jill Meagher” Facebook site with information.

But he said there had also been drawbacks and some of the online “hatred” incited against Bayley was not helpful, with police seeking further advice on the issue.

- © AFP, 2012

Comments on this article have been disabled as court proceedings have begun.

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