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Website defamation row over bike race death settled

A motorcycle parts dealer has settled a High Court action against a social networking site over the alleged use of his name by someone else to make defamatory comments.

Derek Traynor claimed he was defamed as a result of the comments posted in his name on Bebo about a biking champion killed in a racing accident.

Mr Traynor, who operates a web-based spare parts and accessories business, claimed Bebo wrongfully allowed defamatory comments to be published on a site dedicated to Dublin man, Martin Finnegan, who died in the Tandragee 100 race meeting in Armagh in May 2008. The comments were allegedly posted for eight days almost immediately after his death.

Mr Traynor, of Clonross, Drumree, Meath, claimed the comments, posted by somebody using his name, meant that he took pleasure in the death of Mr Finnegan and used highly derogatory language about somebody who died in tragic circumstances.

Bebo Incorporated, with registered offices in San Francisco, had denied the claims.

It told him shortly after the comments went up it could only release details of who posted them if it was subject to a court order or official request from gardai.

The High Court heard yesterday there had been a settlement between the parties.

Mr Traynor had sought, under a discovery application, an order for Bebo to disclose the identity of people responsible for writing the alleged defamatory statements and their internet service provider address.

In his statement of claim, Mr Traynor had said he is involved in road racing and would be clearly understood, and reasonably presumed, to be the person responsible for posting messages with the username ‘DerekTraynor'.

He claimed the messages were published on two fan sites for the late Mr Finnegan between May 4 and May 11, 2008.

He was not the author of those messages and did not have a Bebo account until May 5, 2008, when he set up one in order to correct the “defamatory impression” given by the messages.

He wrote he was appalled that anyone would make such comments and he had great respect for Mr Finnegan.

Mr Traynor said even though he got Howth Garda Station to put in an official request to furnish gardai with the identity of the poster of the message, he (Mr Traynor) was not supplied with it.

He said Bebo failed to remove the messages with due expedition despite his requests and acted negligently by refusing or failing to publish any disclaimer about their truth or accuracy.

He was, he said, the victim of a most serious wrongdoing. Due to the circumstances surrounding the publication of the alleged defamation, he had no means of discovering who posted it.

Bebo failed to exercise any reasonable care over the posting of the messages, and he sought damages for defamation and breach of duty.

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