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Northern Ireland revenge porn case pair banned from accessing Facebook accounts ahead trial

By Alan Erwin

Published 22/08/2016

Facebook has been asked to allow the pair to have new accounts.
Facebook has been asked to allow the pair to have new accounts.

An alleged victim of revenge porn has secured a High Court order banning two Facebook users from accessing or altering their accounts.

The woman, from an undisclosed part of Northern Ireland, claims a highly sexualised photo she sent to a former partner was published after the relationship ended.

She is suing him and another user of the social network for alleged breach of privacy and the Data Protection Act.

As part of her case the woman sought an order to effectively freeze both defendants' Facebook accounts and preserve evidence in the case.

Granting the application at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice Stephens said: "The information contained on those accounts will be vitally important in analysing whether their explanations as to the publication of the photograph are correct."

Anonymity has been given to all of those involved in the proceedings.

The woman, who is also suing Facebook Ireland Ltd, further alleges her independence and dignity were undermined by publication of her photo.

An alternative option of suspending the accounts would result in the loss of evidence that could either help her or vindicate the defendants, the court heard.

In a newly published ruling, Mr Justice Stephens recognised the pair have a right to communicate with their friends and access information on their Facebook accounts.

One of them does not have a mobile phone, instead relying on Facebook's messaging service to keep in touch.

But the judge held, on balance, that evidence must be preserved.

"Revenge porn is a matter of considerable concern," he said.

He ordered that the two Facebook users are prohibited from accessing or altering their present accounts until further notice.

Mr Justice Stephens also directed that the social media giant should facilitate the setting up of new accounts for them.

He added: "I would have thought that Facebook has or should have a method of recording and preserving information that is put onto their accounts so as to assist courts in preventing Facebook being used as a tool to abuse individuals.

"The court looks to Facebook to assist.  That is to provide technical assistance in order to achieve what everyone seeks to achieve, namely that individuals can live their lives free from harassment, abuse and instances of revenge porn."

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