Saturday 17 August 2019

Facebook and Twitter face court over photos

Ana Kriegel (Photo: RTE)
Ana Kriegel (Photo: RTE)

Andrew Phelan and Shane Phelan

Facebook and Twitter are to be brought to court to answer allegations of contempt over the publication of photographs and content identifying the two boys convicted of murdering Ana Kriegel.

Mr Justice Michael White directed representatives of the social media giants to come to the Central Criminal Court today after he was told pictures and other material were circulating in a "wilful disregard" of the law and court orders banning the identification of the boys.

The judge also made an interim order for the removal of the photos in question and restraining further publication of any material identifying Boy A and Boy B. He granted the orders following an "urgent" application brought by lawyers for the DPP.

Brendan Grehan SC said, under the Children Act, nothing about the boys should be published or broadcast that tended to identify them.

The trial judge Mr Justice Paul McDermott had also made orders directing that the two boys not be identified, Mr Grehan said.

Since then the DPP's office was made aware that a picture of the boys was circulating on Facebook, with "derogatory comments" by some users.

"We take the view that the operators of these platforms have a responsibility in respect of these matters," Mr Grehan said.

"It is the most serious contempt in the face of the court," Mr Justice White said.

He said he had no hesitation in granting an interim injunction against Facebook and Twitter ex parte, "directing them to remove forthwith from their sites any material tending to identify the two children" and "restrain any repeat" of further such information being published.

The court also made an order directing the respondents to be brought before the court to answer for the contempt of court as set out by lawyers for the DPP in relation to material published on various Twitter and Facebook accounts, "in clear breach" of the Children Act and Mr Justice McDermott's order.

"The court wants to make it clear in the most trenchant way that any particular individual who decides to try to identify the people who have been convicted of these crimes will himself or herself be subject to contempt of court and the matter will be treated in the most serious fashion," Mr Justice White said.

In a statement following the hearing, Twitter said: "We have an established line of communication with An Garda Síochána and are in direct contact with them on this issue."

However, a spokesperson declined to answer queries from the Irish Independent regarding what actions it has taken to comply with the interim order of the court.

A spokesperson for Facebook said it took down the photos as soon as it became aware they had been posted "for violating our Community Standards and local law".

"We also applied our photo-matching technology to prevent this content from being re-shared on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger. We will continue to remove this content from our platforms," the spokesperson said. Gardaí had earlier reminded the public they could face up to three years in jail for identifying a child in court proceedings.

Irish Independent

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