False child abuse post sparks call for social media to be regulated
Social media must be subject to regulation, the Press Council has said in the wake of the case of a man who was erroneously identified as a sex offender on Facebook.
Last month innocent civil servant David Murray, from Dublin, had his picture posted on the page of 'Kildare Now', an online-only news site for Co Kildare. A member of the public mistakenly claimed the image was that of convicted child rapist Anthony Luckwill.
Mr Murray was confronted and threatened by an angry mob in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, and subsequently required garda protection.
The Press Council said it understood Mr Murray decided not to pursue legal action for defamation, either against Facebook or 'Kildare Now'.
He sought redress through the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
"However, membership of the Press Council of Ireland is voluntary... and 'Kildare Now' is not a member of the Press Council," it said.
"Therefore, the Office of the Press Ombudsman cannot use its complaints handling processes in response to Mr Murray's complaint. This leaves him with no regulatory body to turn to in seeking redress."
The council highlighted reports it took 'Kildare Now' seven hours to publish a retraction.
"The identity of the person who posted the image has not been established. By any standards Mr Murray has been a victim of appalling treatment," it said.
Senan Hogan, editor of 'Kildare Now', said a complaint was received at 5.30am and the picture removed at 8.30am. "We've only been around for 18 months, we'd certainly consider joining the Press Council," he said.
The council added: "Social media are subject to no regulation, independent or otherwise.
"They should be required to develop an independent regulatory body that would offer a fair means of redress for people who believe that information about themselves posted... is inaccurate or misleading."