Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Judge orders Belfast firm to hunt the Facebook trolls

Facebook and its use is something the courts are obviously going to have to tackle, says Mr Justice Weatherup

It is up to a Belfast company to unmask anonymous posters using Facebook to harass the firm and its staff, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Weatherup decided that it was the responsibility of the unidentified company to continue with the investigations into finding those responsible.

A series of messages and information attacking the firm has been put up on Facebook by internet trolls using false names. Last month the social networking giant was ordered to help identify the posters in a bid to stop their campaign.

An order preventing the company from being named was also granted after the company’s lawyer said disclosure would only draw more unwanted public attention. Facebook was given 24 hours to provide the email address of posters and 10 days to supply more information about those who posted on the social network site.

In court yesterday its barrister argued that it has now supplied as much information as it possibly can.

Following submissions from both sides, Mr Justice Weatherup predicted an increasing number of social networking-related cases in future. He said: “How the world moves on.

“Facebook and its use is something the courts are obviously going to have to tackle.

“It introduces a whole new electronic world.”

The judge noted that the plaintiff company has brought in an expert to help with the identification of the posters, although as yet without success.

“There may be an issue for the future about who should be doing this, should it be Facebook or the plaintiff.” The judge then decided: “For the moment I'm inclined to the view that it should be the plaintiff.”

He pointed out that any expenses incurred were likely to pass to those responsible if they are found to be acting inappropriately.

Adjourning the case for three weeks, Mr Justice Weatherup said: “I'm assuming the information is baseless, and for that reason I have granted an injunction.”

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