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Watch what you tweet: Caution thrown to wind as WikiLeaks breaks gag order

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN and Casey Tolan, for CNN
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Exiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed the SXSW audience in Austin, Texas, via livestream from London.
Exiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed the SXSW audience in Austin, Texas, via livestream from London.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • WikiLeaks publishes suppression order imposed by Victorian Supreme Court
  • Case involved international politicians and certain allegations that can not be repeated
  • Social media users shared the information online
  • Assange remains in Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he sought political asylum

(CNN) -- They were warned not to share it, but share it they did.

Australians, intrigued by the latest revelation from WikiLeaks, took to social media to pass on a document they were never meant to see.

On Wednesday morning, the whistleblowing group, headed by Julian Assange, broke a suppression order, which was itself subject to a suppression order.

In the United Kingdom, such an order is known as a super-injunction, and is used by judges to ensure secrecy around specific events. And many people talking about the case on Twitter used the hashtag #superinjunction.

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This one involves a court case, international politicians and allegations that a Supreme Court judge in the Australian state of Victoria deemed should not be repeated.

The Victorian Supreme Court declined to comment on the matter to CNN.

On its website, WikiLeaks provided more information -- enough to see those responsible for breaking the order prosecuted in an Australian court, one expert said.

"They [Wikileaks] have put themselves in the position of judge, jury and executioner," said Peter Bartlett, a media lawyer from Minter Ellison law firm in Melbourne.

"The difficulty for the court is that WikiLeaks is not, of course, in the jurisdiction of Australia," he said.

"If Assange ever comes back to Australia, you would expect that he would immediately be charged with breaking a suppression order."

Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he sought political asylum two years ago after publishing reams of classified U.S. documents online.

He's wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, which he claims are politically motivated.

Talk of the broken suppression order spread quickly online.

Some blatantly shared the link to the WikiLeaks release, while others adopted a more cautious stance.

One journalist tweeted: "If, hypothetically, you go to the @Wikileaks site, & I'm not suggesting you do, you might find something interesting I can't talk about."

Suppression orders are relatively common in the state of Victoria, according to a recent study.

The report found that in the five years between 2008 and 2012, Victorian courts issued 1,501 suppression orders, including 281 in the Supreme Court.

In its annual report into the state of press freedom in Australia, the Media & Entertainment Arts Alliance referred to Victoria as "the suppression order capital of Australia."

"These laws are quite draconian," said Chris Nash, a professor of journalism at Monash University in Melbourne, and the former director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

Courts have been known to act when the orders are breached. Last year, former broadcaster Derryn Hinch was found guilty of contempt of court and fined $100,000 for contravening an order.

The presenter didn't immediately delete a blog he had published about an alleged killer's criminal past after a judge imposed a suppression order during the murder trial.

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