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Judges, ethics and social media

Judges, Ethics and Social media Last week we were pleased to have a wonderfully diverse and engaged audience attend our first Cyber, Courts and Community twilight program on the topic of judges, ethics and social media, with participants from each of Victoria’s different jurisdictions.

Chaired by Judge Martine Marich, the session featured thought-provoking discussions on some of the personal and professional challenges posed by social media for judicial officers.

Panellists included the Hon. Murray Kellam AO, Justice Steven Rares, President of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, Judge Judith Gibson, NSW District Court and Victoria Law Foundation Communications Manager, Matthew Hurst.

A pre-program survey of 40 judicial officers revealed that most are largely avid social media users. The results stated:

  • 72% had social media accounts with Facebook the most popular
  • Of those who described what they posted online, 100% reported sharing personal updates including personal photos and nearly half reported posting multiple times a month
  • Of those who indicated they did not post content, the dominant reason given was concern about professional implications (privacy, security and maintaining an appearance of impartiality)

Judge Gibson noted that many of the risks associated with social media use by judges could be mitigated through education, and rather than avoiding social media altogether, advocated for responsible, informed and sensible use of social media platforms.

Mr Kellam highlighted The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct have provided some guidance for the ethical conduct of judges, but were not created explicitly for social media.

Attendees were encouraged to read the international, non-binding guidelines on social media published by the United Nations Global Judicial Integrity Network in November 2019. The guidelines include advice on:

  • Judicial identification
  • Content and behaviour
  • Friendships and relationships online
  • Privacy and security
  • Training

Given the rapidly evolving cyber and social media landscape, the College looks forward to exploring further opportunities to keep judicial officers apprised of developments in this complex area.

Our next program in the Cyber, Courts and Community series will be in May and focusses on technology facilitated abuse.

Pictured: Matthew Hurst, Judge Marich, Justice Rares, Murray Kellam and Judge Gibson