Can we gag Facebook?

The Toronto Star just published an article focusing on a police injunction and a gag order. The sum of the article is that traditional media had been issued a gag order, a legal decree silencing the media for a short period of time based on investigations integrity, revolving around the death of a young girl named Stefanie Rengel.

Gag orders are a tricky thing in the world of journalism. Typically journalist want to be the first to break a story, especially a sensational story of 14 year old girl getting murdered by two other teen age girls, the problem arises when minors and crucial information is involved in the case. Nine times out of ten a journalist will agree to remain silent for a period of time if the police request it, but some times legal action is needed and a court can issue a gag order.

The issue focused on in this case is that the death of a minor can not be released with out permission from the child’s former guardians. While traditional media did not release the name of the slain girl, several Facebook tribute pages sprung up.

Legally the police can not take action unless the families file a formal compliant. Since the pages are ‘tribute pages’ I highly doubt the parents will complain. This case however is another example where bloggers, facebookers, and web publishers need to be aware that they are entering the world of public communications and there are many legal ramifications to that.