American self-help guru Tony Robbins has initiated defamation proceedings against social media giant Twitter in Dublin.
The High Court action comes hot on the heels of a libel suit against US website Buzzfeed News over articles alleging sexual misconduct, which the multi-millionaire vehemently denies.
Although the articles complained of appeared on Buzzfeed, Mr Robbins’ lawyers are now also going after Twitter as they allege the pieces were widely distributed on the social media platform.
The case aims to break new ground in terms of Irish defamation law.
Social media companies have not previously been successfully sued in Ireland over the publication of defamatory material.
But the 60-year-old Californian, who is represented by solicitor Paul Tweed, is set to argue that Twitter is a publisher and should be held accountable for defamatory content.
Twitter’s position has been that it is entitled to the benefit of the hosting immunity provided for under the EU’s e-Commerce Directive, which has been transposed into Irish law.
Social media companies have also tended to rely on the innocent publication defence under the Defamation Act.
The proceedings were initiated yesterday against Twitter International Company, which is based at Fenian Street in Dublin.
Independent.ie has sought comment from Twitter and a response is awaited.
The social media giant was put “on notice” of a potential lawsuit late last year.
The decision to issue proceedings over the articles in Ireland has proved somewhat controversial and Mr Robbins has faced accusations of libel tourism.
Ireland’s defamation regime is much stricter than in the US and is also considered more plaintiff-friendly than the UK.
In the Buzzfeed case, the entity being sued is the news outlet’s UK operation, Buzzfeed UK Limited.
Buzzfeed is headquartered in New York and the articles complained of dealt with incidents alleged to have taken place in the US.
The Irish Independent revealed earlier this week that Buzzfeed is set to ask the High Court to rule that any such legal action should be in the US.
However, Mr Tweed has previously said Ireland is the appropriate forum for both sets of proceedings as Twitter’s European headquarters is in Dublin.
He said it was appropriate that both cases be kept “under one roof”.
The solicitor has also argued that it was appropriate to sue Buzzfeed in Dublin as Mr Robbins is a well-known personality in Ireland, having given talks here, while his books are also widely available in Irish bookstores.