Melville cyber wars

• Gary Crawford (far left) with Mark McLerie (back, light blue shirt and no cap) with members of the Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association. File photo.

THE wave park may have found a new home in Jandakot and the bitter council election is over, but the aftershocks are still rocking Melville.

Last week former mayor Russell Aubrey was back in court as a witness for key cyber ally Vanessa Robertson in her fight against a restraining order lodged by Mark McLerie, secretary of Mr Aubrey’s nemeses the Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association.

Along with former councillor Patricia Phelan, Mr Aubrey tried to persuade the court that acerbic comments Ms Robertson posted about Mr McLerie on local Facebook chat pages were provoked by his own intimidatory behaviour.


She’d launched her own application for a restraining order against Mr McLerie in December 2018, but withdrew it before it went to court.

However, the court found there wasn’t evidence to back Mr Aubrey’s claim and Mr McLerie’s application was granted.

Under the terms of the one-year restraining order, Ms Robertson is banned from posting any offensive comments about Mr McLerie on social media.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McLerie said the court’s decision showed there was an option for people facing online trolling to protect themselves.

But he said his experience exposed the difficulties getting Facebook’s foreign owners to take any responsibility.

After unsuccessful attempts to get a defamatory post removed, he tracked down Facebook Australia’s only resident director, who is based in Sydney.

But even after a nudge from Tangney Liberal MP Ben Morton, the tech giant’s Aussie “Operations team” washed their hands of the issue a fortnight later.

“We inform you that Facebook Australia does not control or operate the website available at … and does not have the authorization to access Facebook user records or take action with respect to content on the Facebook service,” the unnamed “Operations team” wrote.

Shortly afterwards, he also got a letter from Facebook, Inc’s Californian lawyers White & Case, but it was another brush-off because the company “does not submit to Australian jurisdiction” and doesn’t accept that it’s the publisher of material on its site.

Mr McLerie says it may need legislation to make Facebook and other social media sites lift their game. “I agree with the MRRA in that one good step is to ensure Facebook provides clear and unambiguous local contact points to allow the service of civil legal proceedings, notices and document, such as subpoenas for evidence,” Mr McLerie said.

“That is is Facebook can’t control itself as promised.”

Shortly after the restraining order was granted, Mr McLerie and Ms Robertson settled a defamation claim for an undisclosed amount. She will be required to apologise in local newspapers under the terms of the settlement.

A simmering feud between former allies also resurfaced last week, with Swan Foreshore Protection Association founder Clive Ross sending a Notice of Concern to former MRRA president Gary Crawford over comments and advertisements from his unsuccessful council election campaign last October.

Mr Crawford was angry complaints from a local group he was involved in got excised from a joint submission to the state government inquiry into the council.


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