Tuesday 15 October 2019

Facebook to provide information to Miriam O'Callaghan in bid to identify those behind alleged defamatory ads

Miriam O'Callaghan
Miriam O'Callaghan

Tim Healy

Broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan has secured a High Court order requiring Facebook to provide her with information aimed at identifying those behind alleged defamatory adverts on the social media platform .

Facebook neither consented nor objected to the orders, made today by Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds.

They require Facebook to give Ms O’Callaghan’s lawyers basic subscriber information, payment method details and business manager account information, to the extent such information exists, about those behind the adverts.

Ms O’Callaghan intends to seek damages over the alleged false and malicious adverts containing her image and name on Facebook and Instagram in May 2018. 

She wants to bring proceedings against both Facebook, which owns Instagram, and those behind the adverts.

Because her lawyers don't know who the latter are, she sought orders requiring Facebook Ireland Ltd to provide information it allegedly has about those who paid for the adverts to be placed on the platforms. 

When the matter was mentioned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Friday, Paul O'Higgins SC, for Ms O'Callaghan, said “progress has been made” and an order was being handed into the court.

He said Facebook’s ordinary protocol in such applications is they will notify customers before providing details of their accounts but, in this case, his side wanted that bypassed. The account details “may be phoney anyway” but he did not want the account holders to be informed in advance, he said. 

Joe Jeffers BL, for Facebook, said it was neither objecting nor consenting to the order.

The judge said she would make the order and returned the matter to April 30.

Previously the High Court was told the adverts contain misleading and defamatory headlines wrongly suggesting Ms O'Callaghan has left her job with RTE's Prime Time to promote skin care products.

Ms O'Callaghan says she has "nothing to do" with the adverts, linked to offers for skin care products, and is most distressed at being associated against her will with what has been described as "a scam product".

She claims the adverts have exploited the trust placed in her by the Irish public and damaged her good name and reputation.

The paid for adverts, known as "targeted advertisements" appear on social media users newsfeeds, and are designed to encourage the user to click on the adverts.

Those who click on the adverts are offered various skin care products which she says are falsely stated to be owned or endorsed by Ms O'Callaghan.

It is also claimed users who avail of an offer of free trials of the skin care products have reported they had money debited from their bank accounts which they did not authorise.

Ms O'Callaghan intends to seek a permanent injunction restraining publication of the adverts, plus damages for malicious falsehood, unlawful appropriation of personality, various breaches of her constitutional rights and defamation.

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