Journalists seek information on Twitter account holders over alleged defamation

Aoife Moore of the 'irish Examiner' and Allison Morris of the 'Belfast Telegraph' are seeking damages against former 'Sunday Independent' columnist Eoghan Harris over defamatory comments on Twitter
Journalists seek information on Twitter account holders over alleged defamation

The journalists want Twitter to give the names and contact details of other Twitter account holders who they claim republished or retweeted any of the allegedly defamatory material posted by Barbara Pym and other accounts

Two journalists have asked the High Court for orders requiring social media giant Twitter to provide them with information about account holders they allege have defamed them.

The actions have been brought by Allison Morris of the Belfast Telegraph and Aoife Moore of the Irish Examiner against Twitter International Company and former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris.

In their action, they seek damages for defamation, as well as an injunction preventing Twitter from publishing any further statements containing the same or similar defamatory words about the reporters.

Disclosure of the identities of persons

They also seek what is known as a 'Norwich Pharmacal' order requiring Twitter to make disclosure of the identities of persons, who controlled, used, contributors, curators and owners of several named Twitter accounts, including the Barabara J Pym account @barbarapym2.

Mr Harris has admitted to being the author of that account, the court heard.

The journalists want Twitter to provide them with IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and other contact details of persons associated with those particular accounts.

They also want Twitter to give the names and contact details of other Twitter account holders who they claim republished or retweeted any of the allegedly defamatory material posted by Barbara Pym and other accounts.

They further seek orders against Mr Harris, with an address in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, requiring him to reveal the identities of the group of persons who contributed, curated or used the accounts in question.

Represented by Tom Hogan, the journalists claim that since 2019, they have been the subject of defamatory tweets published by the accounts.

Belfast-based Ms Morris said in a sworn statement to the High Court that the tweets repeated and wrongfully stated that she was a "partisan" and "biased journalist", and "not fit to write for the Belfast Telegraph".

The tweets, which she became aware of last October, also stated she is a supporter of terrorism, supported Sinn Féin, and was biased in favour of the Provisional IRA.

The tweet had a profound effect on the paper's crime correspondent's reputation and her mental health. The tweets also put her life in danger, she said.

She said she had no option other than to bring these proceedings in order to vindicate her good name and professional reputation.

Derogatory and malicious

In her sworn statement Ms Moore, a political correspondent with the Irish Examiner, said the tweets had also damaged her professional reputation. The statements posted about her were derogatory and malicious, she said.

She said the accounts said she had infiltrated the newspaper in order to "promulgate Sinn Féin extremist propaganda," and peddle "Trump type fake" news.

These and the other accusations on the accounts are false and untrue she said. Her reputation as a journalist, she added has been "systemically torn apart".

She added in her sworn statement that the tweets had a profound impact on her mental health, and she has undergone counselling.

While she said her employer is supportive, she said she was fearful that other journalists and the politicians she deals with in the course of her work may start to believe the false allegations about her.

The journalists’ action were briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Senan Allen at the High Court on Friday afternoon.

The judge, on an ex-parte basis, said he was satisfied the matter was sufficiently urgent to allow the court grant the applicants permission to serve short notice of the proceedings against twitter.

The case will come back before the court in June.

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