Sunday 19 November 2017

Taking on Facebook is like action against brick wall

Businessman Sean Quinn (Picture: Collins)
Businessman Sean Quinn (Picture: Collins)

Tim Healy

Seeking an injunction requiring Facebook to remove one of its pages is like taking legal action against a brick wall holding up an advertising poster, the High Court heard.

Rossa Fanning, for Facebook, made the analogy when opposing an application by a company once run by businessman Sean Quinn for orders removing a Facebook page with alleged defamatory posts and identifying who was behind them.

"The application against Facebook is just wrong in law," Mr Fanning said. "If somebody was putting up a film poster on a board, it would be like seeking an injunction against the wall," he said.

Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH), and its chief executive Liam McCaffrey, are seeking the orders against Facebook Ireland requiring the removal of the material put up by 'Concerned Irish Citizens', a group which says it supports lawful efforts to get the Quinn family back in control of company operations.

QIH and Mr McCaffrey were last Friday given permission to serve notice of its proceedings on Facebook and the matter returned to court yesterday.

Michael Binchy, for the plaintiffs, said there was still defamatory material on the Facebook site. Mr Fanning said Mr Binchy knew full well who the people posting this information were and it was part of a much broader dispute. Facebook should not be drawn into it, he said.

This was essentially a prior restraint application for which there was EU and national law saying it was impermissible, he said. There were billions of Facebook postings and there was no way his client could possibly screen them all.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan adjourned the matter until today for a date for the hearing of the injunction application to be fixed. He said a possible simple solution could be if Facebook was to tell the plaintiffs the identity of those posting the material. The judge also commented he was aware there were "serious legal issues in the background".

Yesterday, Mr Quinn contacted the group's secretary, Patricia Gilheany, who manages the account, requesting she closed it. In an e-mail, Mr Quinn stated his view that the posts were "counterproductive" to his talks with the US-based owners Quinn Industrial Holdings Limited. A spokesperson for the page said last night it would "respect the wishes of Sean Quinn on this matter".

Irish Independent

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