Facebook and Twitter in court over pictures of Ana Kriegel’s killers
The social media giants answered contempt of court proceedings after images of the teenager’s murderers appeared on their platforms.
The family of a convicted killer have gone into hiding after pictures of their son were posted on Facebook and Twitter, a court has heard.
The social media giants appeared in an Irish court to answer contempt of court proceedings after photographs and the names of the two convicted juvenile killers were posted on their platforms.
It also emerged during proceedings that another child, who has no involvement in the case, was falsely identified as one of the killers on social media.
Two teenagers, known as Boy A and Boy B, were found guilty on Tuesday of the murder of Ana Kriegel, whose naked body was found in an abandoned farm house in Lucan, Co Dublin, last May after the 14-year-old had been reported missing by her parents.
Boy A was also found guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
The 14-year-old boys are the youngest convicted killers in the history of the Irish state, and have been granted lifelong anonymity due to their age.
Counsel for Boy B’s family, Damien Colgan SC, told Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Thursday that his clients “have been forced into hiding”, and that a journalist from a tabloid newspaper had since called to their house in an attempt to interview them.
The case garnered huge media and public attention across the country and further afield.
Hours after the verdict at Dublin’s Central Criminal Court, pictures of the two boys began appearing on social media, as well as their names, and alleged threats against them and their families.
Representatives from Twitter and Facebook received a summons late on Wednesday, where an injunction on both platforms was implemented, ordering them to remove all material identifying the boys and to proactively stop any further material being published.
They reappeared in front of Justice Michael White on Thursday morning, along with legal counsel for Boy A, Boy B, and a school in Dublin.
Shelley Horan, representing the school, told the court that the institution had come under sustained abuse on their social media.
“What concerns them is that an innocent child has been identified as being Boy A or Boy B, and he is not,” she said.
“Other children are being implicated in commentary online.”
Both Facebook Ireland Ltd and Twitter International Company provided signed affidavits to the court in which they detailed the actions they had taken to remove the pictures, comments and tweets that identified the boys.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Brendan Grehan SC told the court that the injunction implemented on Wednesday should be continued.
“The reason the Director moved with such speed yesterday was in order to try and put a lid on something that was unfolding before our eyes,” he said.
“Without putting either Facebook or Twitter on notice, every hour that passed was critical in terms of the dissemination of the material, and the risk that it did virally spread beyond the possibility of trying to recall it.”
Mr Grehan added that “good faith efforts” had been made by both respondents to comply with the injunction, but noted he felt that Facebook had made a greater effort than Twitter, as it has image recognition technology that could prevent the same picture being uploaded again.
He added that Twitter does not have any kind of monitoring system independent of actual complaints brought to their attention.
Both of the representatives for the social media companies argued that they could not be expected to predict what their users might post before they post it, and could find themselves breaching the current order without intending to do so.
They added that staff in both companies had worked yesterday and throughout the night to remove all offending material.
Mr Grehan said the DPP was prepared to amend the language of the order, but that the order would stand, as the social media companies must be bound by an order wider than the general order set by the courts for the general public not to identify the boys.
The order now reads: “An order in the nature of an injunction directing respondents to remove from their sites material identifying the two boys convicted of the murder of Ana Kriegel of which they become aware, or which is brought to their attention.”
This was accepted by Justice White, who thanked both social media companies for the haste in which they moved to deal with the issue.
He added that extreme care and sensitivity had been taken to stop “some idiots on social media” breaching the orders of the court, but “now it’s come to pass”.
He said: “I want to make clear that Garda Siochana should pursue with vigour any individual that has breached a court order, which is far more important than issues of justified anger of the heinous crimes committed.
“I am shocked to hear from counsel for a school that some children have been wrongfully identified as perpetrators of these crimes, that should give shockwaves to people.”
There will be an interim hearing on July 5 to assess the success of the order.