Facebook claims difficulties in complying with order in former TD's defamation case

Facebook said the account holder who allegedly defamed Mr O'Rourke has a very common name, and was concerned about the legal repercussions of handing over information on what turned out to be the wrong account.
Facebook claims difficulties in complying with order in former TD's defamation case

Frank O’Rourke claims that wholly untrue statements posted about him on social media last February were designed "to cause maximum professional damage to me" in the 2020 General Election, at a time when he was going through "a difficult marriage breakdown".

Facebook has told the High Court it would have difficulties complying with an order sought by former Fianna Fáil TD Frank O’Rourke requiring it to provide details of an account which he claims was responsible for social media posts that defamed him.

Last month, Mr O'Rourke sought orders in separate actions against Twitter International Company and Facebook Ireland Ltd requiring details so he can identify the posters in order to sue them for defamation.

He seeks details including the account holders' names and email and IP addresses. Mr O'Rourke previously secured orders against Twitter.

However, Facebook claims it would not be able to comply if a similar order is made against it.

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds heard on Tuesday from Rossa Fanning SC for Facebook who said his client needed certain technical information before it could comply with any orders to provide information on an account holder who has allegedly defamed the former TD.

Counsel said Facebook has not been provided with a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or web address regarding an allegedly defamatory post made about the former TD on Facebook.

Counsel said Facebook requires the URL so it can identify the alleged poster of defamatory remarks about Mr O'Rourke, and comply with any orders concerning the account.

Another difficulty was that the account holder who allegedly defamed Mr O'Rourke has a very common name, and it was concerned about the legal repercussions of handing over information to the ex-TD's lawyers on what turned out to be the wrong account.

Mr Fanning said Facebook usually takes a neutral view to such applications, and complies with the orders of the court, and could comply with certain relief sought by Mr O'Rourke.

Counsel said that it was most likely the comments had been deleted and that Mr O'Rourke had waited until last month to seek orders against Facebook over comments that were posted in February.

Counsel added that Facebook was different from Twitter in that each Twitter account has a unique 'handle', and that it is much easier to identify individual account holders.

In reply, Declan Doyle SC for Mr O'Rourke said his client was not happy with Facebook's response to the order sought, adding that the sides, unlike in the proceedings involving Twitter, had not been able to reach an agreement.

Counsel said very little details regarding what steps Facebook has taken regarding the account Mr Rourke seeks details about were included in a sworn statement by Facebook’s lawyers to the court.

Counsel said it appeared that Facebook was "shrugging its shoulders" regarding his client's application because it does not have details including a URL of the comments his client claims are defamatory.

Ms Justice Reynolds said Facebook should provide the court with a sworn statement setting out in detail the steps and efforts it is making in regards to the information about the account holder that Mr O'Rourke claims defamed him.

The judge adjourned Mr O'Rourke's case against Facebook to a date in January.

Frank O’Rourke's defamation case

Mr O Rourke claims that wholly untrue statements posted about him on social media last February were designed "to cause maximum professional damage to me" in the 2020 General Election, at a time when he was going through "a difficult marriage breakdown".

He claims that members of the public told him that they had seen "horrible stuff" about him on social media and that his political supporters received "negative feedback on the doorsteps of North Kildare" following the publication of the comments.

He also alleges that untrue posts were made on Facebook pages associated with the Celbridge area about his family life and his personal financial matters were designed to show that he was unfit to serve in Dáil Eireann.

He further claims that a tweet put out shortly before the election which called on people not to vote for him, also contained untrue and defamatory statements about his personal life.

Representing Fianna Fáil Mr O'Rourke of Dublin Road, Celbridge, was elected as TD for North Kildare in 2016. In February's election, he lost his seat after finishing fifth in the four-seater constituency.

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