Monday 29 December 2014

Twitter ordered to remove 'sexually offensive' impersonation account of Irish teacher

Published 31/12/2013 | 14:42

Twitter International was directed by a High Court judge in Dublin today to remove from the internet “grossly defamatory and offensive sexually related pictures and tweets” about an Irish schoolteacher.

Mr Justice Michael White ordered Twitter International, which has its registered address at Pearse Street, Dublin, to immediately take down the offensive material contained in a profile associated with an Irish woman, currently home for Christmas from Abu Dhabi where she teaches.

Judge White said the court would make no comment on the liability of Twitter which had previously indicated it simply facilitates members of the public to engage in discourse over the internet.  Twitter had denied liability for posting of the pictures and tweets.

The judge told barrister Shannon Michael Haynes, counsel for the teacher, that while the proceedings had been heard in public he would direct that the profile complained of should not be identified by the media.

He said potential mischief-makers could make the defamation far worse than it already was.

The woman said in a sworn affidavit that a friend had told her on December 17 last that there was profile on Twitter apparently connected with her and featuring a series of sexually explicit and offensive photographs and commentary about her and her mother.

“All the photographs of me and my mother are in amongst a thread of other posts and comments which feature sexually explicit material with many close-up images of the female anatomy,” the teacher stated.

She told the judge she had not created or had anything to do with the profile which was causing her a great deal of distress and alarm.  She was worried about the damage the grossly defamatory profile page could do to her reputation and future employment prospects.

“The comments-thread makes reference to Abu Dhabi where I live and work and to my return trip to Ireland for Christmas on December 14 last and to my mother’s age, so whoever is posting the material about me must clearly be known to me and doing so for a malicious purpose,” she said.

She said that both she and her solicitor had reported an impersonation violation to Twitter International and had asked Twitter to immediately suspend the profile from the internet. As of today, the profile remained up on Twitter.

Judge White said he had no doubt that the profile site was totally defamatory and the court felt it should have been taken down as a matter of urgency in view of the particular content.  This had not happened to date.

He made an order directing Twitter to take down the profile immediately and remove all material relating to the Irish teacher.  He adjourned the proceedings to January 15.

Ray Managh

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