Advancing human rights and equality
through public interest litigation

Email  Twitter

Facebook required to pay damages to flag protester about comments regarding the religion of his children

J20 v Facebook Ireland Limited [2016] NIQB 98

The High Court found that Facebook was liable for misuse of private information.  A series of offensive comments about the applicant were posted on Facebook in relation to demonstrations following the decision in December 2012 to limit the flying of the union flag at Belfast City Hall.  In the pages, the applicant was described as ‘a sectarian parade organiser,’ ‘a loyalist bigot,’ ‘a scum woman beating snake’ and so on.  There was an allegation that he did not bother with his children because they were Catholic and an inference that he was a police informant.  

The applicant’s grounds for challenge related to harassment and misuse of private information.  The judge held that while ‘these comment are offensive and distasteful’ they ‘do not cross the boundary between what is unattractive and unreasonable as opposed to what is oppressive and unacceptable.’  Therefore the web postings could not constitute harassment.

The judge held that the reference to the children, who could be identified, constituted a misuse of private information.  He was also concerned about the inference that the applicant was a police informer given the particular political resonance of this issue in Northern Ireland.  This also amounted to a misuse of private information.

The judge found that while there was no obligation for Facebook to actively monitor sites, the defendant had been made aware of this matter through requests by the applicant to remove the material.  It did not reply to these requests.  It then deduced that there was no violation of its terms of service.  Facebook was ordered to pay the applicant damages of £3000.

Read BBC News article here.

Private Information & Data Protection