NSW Police have issued a public apology to rugby league referee Matt Cecchin over a Facebook post published during the State of Origin series which depicted him wearing a Queensland jersey in a doctored photograph
While the meme, published on the NSW Police Force official Facebook page, was intended to be humorous, the high-profile sports official did not see it that way.
The meme was accompanied by the caption: "NSW Police uncover QLD's plan to replace Johnathan Thurston in game three."
The NSW Police Force has since deleted the post and published a lengthy apology to Mr Cecchin.
"In the lead up to Game 3 of the 2017 State of Origin, the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) posted on the NSWPF Facebook page a meme featuring a photograph of State of Origin referee, Matt Cecchin, with Mr Cecchin pictured wearing a Queensland jersey," it read.
"The NSWPF has since removed this post from the NSWPF Facebook page.
"The NSWPF wishes to make clear it did not intend to make any serious assertion that Mr Cecchin was biased as a referee and only intended for the meme to be a lighthearted joke.
"However, the NSWPF acknowledges that, in posting the meme, Mr Cecchin has suffered hurt and damage to his reputation. The NSWPF wishes to make clear it does not think Mr Cecchin is biased as a referee and withdraws any such suggestion unreservedly. The NSWPF apologises to Mr Cecchin for any hurt or damage caused."
More than one million people follow the NSW Police Force Facebook page, which publishes a mix of media releases, community announcements and humorous posts.
The NSW Police Force started ramping up its Facebook memes as part of a social media strategy to engage the general public.
It is not the first group to find itself in hot water over material published on social media, with an increasing number of legal cases relating to errant Tweets or Facebook posts.
In one case, a NSW student was ordered to pay $105,000 in damages to his teacher after defaming her on Facebook and Twitter.
Last year a Queensland woman was awarded $10,000 after her ex-husband posted unflattering comments about her on Facebook.
Legal firm Slater and Gordon reminds people to think carefully before posting anything online.
"Defamation already extends to the internet," the firm warns. "A split second decision to share information through social media could be very expensive."
The story NSW police apologise to Origin referee over Facebook post first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.