Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Australian Politicians and MySpace

Over at Freedom to Differ, Peter Black has blogged about the social networking site MySpace creating a page about politics in the lead-up to the 2008 United States Presidential election. Read more at Freedom to Differ here. Here in New South Wales we're having a state election on Saturday. All this talk of elections, combined with Pete Black's post, made me wonder: do the candidates for Premier in our state election - Morris Iemma and Peter Debnam - have MySpace pages?

The answer is yes and no. Morris Iemma does, and it can be found here. Peter Debnam does not. However, as I started to click my way around MySpace, I became transfixed by the number of political profiles on MySpace. Unfortunately, it soon dawned on me that I couldn't tell which MySpace profiles were legitimate and which were not. This led me to my next question: are any of the Australian politician MySpace pages legitimate?

I can't imagine that ex-Australian Prime Ministers Bob Hawke or Paul Keating would really be workin' MySpace. The same goes for former Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, given that he passed away in April 2005. However, some of the pages - like those for Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Victorian Premier Steve Bracks look kind of legitimate. Until you start to read the details.

MySpace came under fire only a short while ago, in January this year, after Justice Michael Kirby, of the High Court of Australia, was the victim of a particularly defamatory, fake MySpace profile. See the Sydney Morning Herald article on this here. According to the SMH story, the site was available for about 15 months.

Now, I'm all for social networking, commons-based peer production, expressing yourself, etc. In Australia, we also have a great tradition of parody and satire, with shows like The Panel and The Chaser "sending up" pretty much everything. However, there is something that troubles me about individuals creating non-legit MySpace pages about Australian politicians (and other individuals, actually) purporting to be the real deal and then putting up defamatory, offensive, and untrue content. In my opinion, if the author admits that the site is a parody (or it's an obvious parody) and denounces any affiliation with the individual in question, then that's more acceptable. However, when people see content on these fake pages that indicates to them the site is real, that's more problematic. When the site defames the person in question and the user can't tell if the page is legitimate, that's even worse.

This weekend, my fellow New South Welshmen and I will take to the polls to fulfil our democratic duty. In return, I'd like to pose a challenge to all Australian politicians: if your MySpace page is legitimate, please let us know! I realise that Morris Iemma probably has a bit to do with an election in five days and everything, but at least one person (i.e. this blogger) will sleep better knowing that MySpace is still being used for some good...

Author's Note: A big thank you to my housemate Abi for her assistance with this post!

(Pictured: "Join Myspace", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)


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