The Office of the Press Ombudsman says it is powerless to seek redress for a man, who was wrongly identified as a sex offender and a threat to children on the Facebook page of a local news outlet, as the organisation is not a member.
The ombudsman’s office cited the high-profile case of David Murray in calling for regulation of social media.
On Friday, May 26, the KildareNow website reported that locals in Monasterevin were concerned that convicted sex offender Anthony Luckwill was spotted in the area.
However, one reader posted a picture of David Murray on KildareNow’s Facebook page, incorrectly identifying him as Luckwill.
Mr Murray then required garda protection after he was confronted by an angry mob in the case of mistaken identity.
He subsequently appeared on both RTÉ’s Liveline and Prime Time to speak of his ordeal.
The Office of the Press Ombudsman says it handles complaints from members of the public “and seeks to resolve them by conciliation or mediation to the satisfaction of everyone concerned”.
However, it has now been revealed that while Mr Murray sought redress through the office, it cannot assist him in this dispute, as KildareNow is not subject to its oversight.
“By any standards, Mr Murray has been a victim of appalling treatment,” a statement from the Press Council read.
“However, membership of the Press Council of Ireland is voluntary and KildareNow is not a member of the Press Council.
"Therefore, the Office of the Press Ombudsman cannot use its complaints-handling processes in response to Mr Murray’s complaint. This leaves him with no regulatory body to turn to in seeking redress,” it noted.
The incident reinforced the Press Council and the Press Ombudsman’s calls for the introduction of a regulatory system for social media.
“Under the current arrangements, the vast majority of the press is subject to independent regulation and broadcasting is subject to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland,” said the Press Council.
“Social media are, however, subject to no regulation, independent, or otherwise.
"They should be required to develop an independent regulatory body that would offer a fair means of redress for people who believe that information about themselves posted on social media is inaccurate or misleading.
"If social media cannot or will not put in place such structures they should be made subject to national and/or international governmental oversight,” it said.
All national newspapers, most local newspapers, some magazines, and some online-only news services are mem- bers of the Press Council.
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