Wednesday 28 June 2017

Ryanair sues Twitter user in US over bomb threat claim

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair has hunted down a Twitter user who it claims threatened to blow up one of its aircraft.

The airline has filed a lawsuit against Brian Lake of Koppel, Pennsylvania, seeking damages. Koppel is part of the Pittsburgh greater metropolitan area.

In a publicly-available complaint just filed with a court in Pennsylvania, Ryanair alleges that Mr Lake used the Twitter account 'GunnexGod' to publish threats and statements that were designed to "tarnish Ryanair's business and reputation".

Ryanair has claimed that the Tweets allegedly published by Mr Lake were "false and malicious threats and representations" and written with the "specific intent of harming Ryanair's business and its reputation of providing high-quality, reliable, low-cost goods and services in the commercial airline industry".

"In addition, terroristic actions and threats such as these can and do have a chilling effect on the businesses towards which they are directed," Ryanair's lawyers added.

Ryanair, whose ceo is Michael O'Leary, spent more than a year tracking down Mr Lake.

Ryanair initially pursued what were then unknown Twitter users through the Los Angeles Superior Court, as Twitter is based in California. One of the Tweets had threatened to blow up 15 Ryanair jets unless the airline handed over $50m (€47m).

The carrier later sought court orders to force US communications giants Sprint and Verizon to divulge records that would help in its efforts to track down the Twitter users who allegedly made threats against Ryanair.

"Determining the proper parties is akin to peeling an onion - each layer leads to another but ultimately you get to the centre," Ryanair's lawyer told the Los Angeles court last year.

The airline's lawyers have alleged in the Pennsylvania legal action that Mr Lake "published the threat to a world-wide audience, including Ryanair's more than 264,000 Twitter followers, and reaching its customers, potential customers, and the general public in an attempt to injure Ryanair's business and strike fear in the general public".

The tweet allegedly published by Mr Lake last year read:

"Hello @Ryanair, you have 15 minutes before I commit the biggest terror attack the UK has ever seen on one of your planes. Be ready."

Ryanair is seeking "exemplary and punitive damages" because of what it alleges was Mr Lake's "tortuous conduct".

The airline is suing Mr Lake for defamation, trademark dilution as well as false or misleading representation. Ryanair has demanded a jury trial in the case.

The airline has claimed that Mr Lake's acts "have caused irreparable injury to Ryanair and, unless enjoined, will cause further irreparable injury, leaving Ryanair with no adequate remedy at law".

Ryanair typically takes a no-nonsense approach to its legal actions. This week, an attempt by Google to strike out a competition law claim by Ryanair, brought as part of the airline's action over alleged trademark infringement on the Internet, was rejected by the Commercial Court in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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