The Northern Ireland High Court has ordered Facebook to take down a page entitled “Keeping our kids safe from predators” on an application made by a convicted sex offender. The claimant, who was anonymised and known only as XY, was given a six year jail sentence for a child sex offence more than 20 years ago. He claimed that material published on the page constituted harassment, breach of privacy, and misuse of his private information.
Although Facebook had removed the claimant’s photograph and the comments about him he sought an order that Facebook should shut down the page and disclose the identities of those behind it. On comment said: “So the man, or I mean mess of a human being, that’s taken this page to court, he must want to be the head paedophile and rule over all sex offenders. He will be like a god to them.” Another stated: “Put him down like an animal.”
The defendant, Facebook Ireland Limited, claimed it was not necessary or proportionate to delete a page with over 4,000 likes but the judge ruled in the claimant’s favour. He held that the publication of the page carried the risk of infringing the claimant’s human rights. Mr Justice McCloskey said
“Society has dealt with the plaintiff in accordance with the rule of law. He has been punished by incarceration and he is subject to substantial daily restrictions on his lifestyle.”
The Judge said that, balancing the competing rights to privacy and freedom of expression, an order would be made in favour of the plaintiff. He said that only interim relief was being sought at this stage, and that granting it would cause minimal disruption to Facebook.
“I conclude that the pendulum of the rule of law swings in the plaintiff’s favour … The order of the court will be that the removal from facebook.com of the page entitled ‘Keeping our kids safe from predators’… is to be effected within 72 hours.“
A spokeswoman for Facebook said: “We are considering our next steps in light of the court judgment and we have nothing further to add at this stage.”
Facebook now has its European Headquarters in Ireland – its terms and conditions for non North American users now name “Facebook Ireland Limited” as the party. Presuambly, the claimant would seek to enforce the order of the Northern Ireland Court against the company in the Irish Republic.