Tuesday 20 February 2018

Lawyer wants High Court to order Facebook Ireland to take down alleged defamatory postings about him from its service

Facebook. Photo: PA
Facebook. Photo: PA

Tim Healy

A UGANDAN lawyer wants the High Court to order Facebook Ireland to take down alleged defamatory postings about him from its service.

Fred Muwema claims he is being defamed in postings by a blogger called "TVO" who accuses him of accepting a 900 million Uganda shillings (€237,000) bribe and Facebook has a duty to ensure it is removed as publisher of the material.

Mr Muwema strongly denies the bribe claim and also denies another claim he was involved in a break-in in at his own office.

His injunction application is being brought here because Ireland is Facebook's headquarters for its service outside the US and Canada.

Facebook denies it has a duty to remove the material particularly in circumstances where much of it is available across the internet by simply Googling "Muwema" and "bribe". 

Mr Justice Donald Binchy reserved judgment on the injunction application.

Andrew Walker BL, for Mr Muwema, said the injunction would not affect Facebook's freedom of expression.

His client was seeking to injunct the service it provides and preserve his reputation.

Facebook had offered to provide the IP (internet protocol) address of the blogger but only after legal proceedings were taken.   Mr Muwema had no choice but to bring the case because of Facebook's attitude, counsel said.

It provides a service and that has to be, on occasions policed, and that is by the courts, he said.  

This was an extremely serious defamation and while Facebook may lose a user of its service whose page is taken down, that it the extent of damage to it.

He needed a court order because despite the bringing of legal proceedings, the blogger had posted more defamatory material, he said.

Material was on other parts of the internet because Mr Muwema had to give a interviews to a Ugandan media denying the allegations.   He had no choice but to do so to try to protect his reputation.

Rossa Fanning BL, for Facebook, said there was something fanciful about the restraints sought by Mr Muewma in the context where there are 1.6 billion people posting on Facebook every day and where, even if this page was taken down, another could open up ten seconds later. 

Mr Fanning also provided the court with a number of articles about the allegations made against Mr Muwema which centre on the claim the bribe was paid to undermine a petition  brought to challenge the election of Uganda president Yoweri Museveni who was last month sworn in for his fifth term.

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