Lawyer fails to get Facebook to take down ‘defamation’

A Ugandan lawyer has failed to secure a High Court order directing Facebook Ireland to take down alleged defamatory postings about him from its service.

Fred Muwema claimed that he was defamed in postings made by a blogger called ‘TVO’, who accuses him of accepting a 900m Uganda shillings (€237,000) bribe. He said that 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 — that he was involved in

a break-in in at his own office.

His injunction application was brought in Dublin because Ireland is Facebook’s headquarters for its service outside the US and Canada.

Facebook denied that 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’.

It had agreed to provide the lawyers with any details it holds in relation to the identities and location of the persons who operate the ‘TVO’ Facebook page.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Donald Binchy said that he was dismissing the application for various orders sought by Mr Muwema.

The orders sought, including one compelling Facebook to take down the page, can only be granted in circumstances where it is clear the defendant had no defence that is likely to succeed.

However, the judge said Facebook has a defence to the claim of innocent publication as provided for in section 27 of the 2009 Defamation Act.

Mr Justice Binchy said that the action should also be refused because it would serve no useful purpose. During the hearing evidence was given to the court that the same and other damaging allegations about Mr Muwema had appeared on other websites and publications.

Lawyers for Mr Muwema had argued the injunction would not affect Facebook’s freedom of expression, and had been brought to preserve his reputation.

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

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 bring the proceedings, he said.


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