An Australian couple was issued hefty fines this week for violating lockdown orders after they posted photos to Facebook that were taken at a vacation spot two hours from their home. Police showed up at their door and issued over $5,000 in fines for the photos, according to multiple reports. The only problem? The photos were taken last year, long before non-essential travel was banned due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The couple, identified as Jaz and Garry Mott from the Australian state of Victoria, posted the photos to Facebook earlier this month but the selfies were actually taken in June of 2019. States in Australia have instituted some of the steepest fines for breaching quarantine in the world, including potentially tens of thousands of dollars for breaking the rules on social distancing and limiting travel.
The police in Victoria have reportedly dropped the fines against the Motts after public outcry in Australia, a country that has done a relatively good job of containing the coronavirus pandemic through a massive testing regime and early lockdowns. Australia has identified 6,494 cases of covid-19 and 61 deaths, as of Tuesday. The U.S. has identified 582,594 cases and 23,649 deaths, the highest of any country in the world.
“On occasion, errors will be made however that is why a review process exists to ensure instances such as these are identified and rectified,” the police told Australia’s Seven News network.
It’s not clear if the couple explained that the photos were old when the police officers came to give them the citation. A Facebook message to Jaz Mott was not returned early Tuesday morning, though she did tell the Daily Mail that the police told her not to post anymore photos on Facebook even after they realised their own mistake.
Australia’s Today Show did a segment on the police intervention and posted it to Facebook on Tuesday.
Police in Victoria insist they’re not monitoring social media to find people breaking quarantine, and hinted that this incident involved a report from the public. But it’s tough to know whether police are telling the truth.
It was revealed just yesterday that Australian Federal Police (AFP) have been using Clearview AI to track down people using advanced facial recognition, despite previous denials that the police agency had ever done so, according to Australia’s ABC News. Clearview’s founder, an Australian national Hoan Ton-That who currently lives in the U.S, has extensive ties to far-right political organisations.
But whatever happens with Clearview, here’s hoping the police stop fining people for old vacation photos on Facebook. Crime is down all across the world, but surely they can find something else to do with their time.
Maybe the cops can take up TikTok. We hear that’s what all the kids are doing these days.