Victoria Police seeking to censor blogs, will Google be next?

Police in Victoria, Australia are seeking legal advice on having blogs that have published the photograph of alleged Churchill bushfire arsonist Brendan Sokaluk censored or taken down.

Pictures of Sokaluk, and is home address are subject to a court suppression order in Victoria.

According to local media reports, Police are concerned that publication of the picture may make it difficult for Sokaluk to get a fair trial. “We’ll talk with the DPP (Department of Public Prosecutions) and we’ll also make some inquiries with the blogging side of it, whether we can have it removed.” Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said.

The Inquisitr, despite being hosted in the United States and subject to US law, did not to publish the picture or home address of Sokaluk due to ownership residing in Victoria.

The quite absurd part of what can only be described as a bizarre anti-blog campaign driven in part by the media, is that few, if any of the blogs hosting the picture would be hosted in, or written by bloggers residing in Victoria.

The suppression order applies to Victoria only, not the rest of Australia, and certainly not the rest of the world.

But if we apply the same logic here, is Google next? A search of Google Australia and immediately brings up Sokaluk’s picture. Not only in Google News and Google Image Search, but on the first page of search itself. Here’s a screenshot (I’ve blanked out the face), taken via my internet connection in suburban Melbourne.


It gets worse though, with both major newspapers in the state reporting that “Victoria Police want to ban messages being posted on internet blogs about accused arsonist Brendan Sokaluk” meaning that Police may be seeking to shut down all discussion of the case. Can you imagine the outcry if the same efforts were being directed towards the press? After all, newspapers world wide have published details on the case, including some in Victoria itself.

The idea that new media would be banned from discussing the case, even within the legal confines of the suppression order presents a clear and present danger to free speech in Australia.

Still, I guess given that this country isn’t far off a totalitarian internet censorship regime, this shouldn’t be all that surprising.