Social media and privacy article

November 6, 2012 |

Privacy and social media, especially Facebook in Kill yourself, club owner tells schoolgirls.  It provides:

VICTORIA’S liquor licensing authority is investigating a nightclub promoter who told several schoolgirls via social media to ”kill yourself” after they asked to have provocative images removed from the venue’s Facebook page.

The young women had attended the Pens Down party at CBD nightclub Roxanne Parlour, where students celebrated the end of year 12 before VCE exams began last week.

Pens Down promoter Christian Serrao posted 262 photographs on the event’s Facebook page, which included about 30 images of schoolgirls posing provocatively and kissing each other.

Some of the girls were embarrassed by the photographs, while others were under 18 and not legally permitted to enter licensed premises.

Other images taken on a river cruise promoted by Mr Serrao showed a young man in school uniform vomiting from the side of a boat.

When several students asked Mr Serrao to delete the images, he posted the following response: ”I just love how these year 12s are happy to get their tits out for photos, then send threatening messages if they’re not deleted off our Facebook page. Kill Yourself.”

Yesterday, Mr Serrao defended the post and said the expression ”kill yourself” was an internet meme that was not meant to be taken literally.

”It’s a comedic thing that’s all over the internet,” Mr Serrao said. ”Some people won’t understand it but you can Google it and see for yourself.”

He said all requests to delete the images had been complied with, after some of the young women expressed concerns that their parents would find them or they were unhappy with their appearance.

The practice of using provocative images of young women to promote functions was widespread across Melbourne’s nightclub industry, Mr Serrao said.

”There’s always girls kissing and doing sexy little things,” he said. ”You get 1 per cent who wake up the next day and aren’t happy and ask us to take them down.”

He said Roxanne Parlour required proof of age and scanned identification before entry but conceded that some under-aged patrons ”fall through the cracks”.

A spokesman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed it was investigating the Pens Down event held on October 24.

Liberty Victoria chairman Spencer Zifcak said the abuse of Facebook sites reinforced the need for privacy legislation.

”This would seem to be a situation where everyone is behaving badly,” Mr Zifcak said. ”These young women have been foolish, while the promoter’s response is a disgrace. But these students are vulnerable and if they, or their parents, ask for the images to be removed, they should be taken down immediately.”

Last year, The Sunday Age revealed that parents from several prominent private schools had considered suing St Kilda’s Prince of Wales hotel, after images of their daughters, some just 16, had been used to promote the venue. Promoter and music industry figure Frank Cotela was sacked by the owners of Prince of Wales two weeks after the legal threats were made. At the time, St Michael’s Grammar principal Simon Gipson said he was deeply concerned by the exploitation of the students on social media sites.

”We deplore the manner in which young women are commodified and sexualised in this way,” he said.

Embarrassing photographs posted on line are not temporary marks of disgrace and discomfort.  They can become lasting inscription of stigma.  A minor infraction of a social norm becomes a forever memorialised.  Context disappears. Even if temporarily justified the potential damage far outweighs long term humiliation.  Even if the patrons were over age, were consenting to their photos being taken in provocative poses  Roxanne Parlour’s aggression in turns its actions into a form of internet shaming.  The chronic lack of privacy protections currently available mean that dispiriting and demeaning exchanges such as described in the story are necessary.  With unpredictable results.  Enforceable and viable privacy laws mean there is a threat of action.  Without the threat of action on line abusers of privacy have no legal incentive to remove photos or to resolve disputes informally.  It is the potential of action that puts a chill through arrogant abusers of other’s privacy.  And in egregious cases the law should become involved, either (or preferably both) by the victim or a regulator.  Involving the Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation to deal with the problem because some of the patrons pictured were under age is a poor application of a law.  Using one law as a jerry built solution to deal with another ill.  It is bad policy and poor use of the laws.

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