Our newest media mogul is a keen observer of the online medium. And she’s not a fan.

Contained within the documentation concerning Gina Rinehart’s bid to extend the suppression order (lifted yesterday) over the legal stoush she’s embroiled in with her children is a security risk assessment report. Compiled by consultancy Control Risks and entitled “Project Tara”, it argues that Rinehart’s family could be placed at risk from “criminals and deranged persons” if details of the case are made public.

In a new twist on the potential for investigative journalism in the digital age, the report also claims the Rinehart family could be at risk from “citizen journalists” who could use “crowd sourcing” techniques to subject the Rineharts to scrutiny.

It also speculates that “social media is likely to rapidly amplify and sensationalise issues. The nature of reporting is likely to be personal rather than business in nature.”

Then there’s some of the evidence cited in the affidavit. That’s where we come in.

Bizarrely, the affidavit refers to exhibit “A” — a number of disparaging reader comments about Rinehart from the Crikey website. It also cites comment threads on Big Footy, some personal Tumblr blogs, and, um, Twitter …

Some of the comments are nasty, colourful and disparaging. Many people don’t know how to spell R-I-N-E-H-A-R-T. But a scan of the evidence cited within the affidavit fails to cite a single example of anyone inciting violence, or any kind of comment that could constitute a genuine threat. Nothing, for example, on the scale of say … someone threatening to assassinate the prime minister, a la the Herald Sun comments thread.

It may not be witty, it may be ill informed in parts, it’s definitely uncivilised and it’s certainly not spelled correctly. But most of the criticism comes under a little thing we like to call fair comment.

Commentators have been tying themselves in knots speculating over if and when and how Rinehart will wield her mogul influence. Perhaps she’ll start by volunteering to moderate Fairfax comment threads, reading the letters to the editor mail bag, or filtering talkback calls.

One thing we know for sure, she’s watching. G’day, Gina.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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