Facebook to challenge sex offender’s right to privacy and excessive damages in Northern Ireland test case

Belfast High Court

Belfast High Court Pic Credit: BBC

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An extraordinary judgement which I reported last year  banning a Facebook page about a convicted paedophile and awarding  him £20,000 damages for harassment is to be challenged in the courts next week.

Facebook is challenging  this decision in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal claiming the damages awarded to the  sex offender were excessive and he could not reasonably expect privacy following his conviction for offences in the courts.

The case arose after  Joseph McCloskey set up a Facebook profile page called ” Keep Our Kids Safe from Predators 2 ” which posted information about a convicted sex offender called CG.

None of the information published  by McCloskey was private. It was all in the public domain at the time of CG’s conviction. CG’s solicitors complained to Mr McCloskey  who immediately removed all postings relating to CG.

The posts are said to contain threats of violence against the paedophile which judge took particular exception.

But the lawyers weren’t satisfied and went to court claiming the sex offender had been harassed on Facebook and his human rights breached by the publication on Facebook.

The judge found against the campaigner and Facebook and awarded the sex offender £20,000 damages for harassment.

Facebook is now challenging this judgement. There is an  excellent report on the Inforrm blog by trainee barrister Aiden Wills which goes into the legal details of Facebook’s challenge.

Facebook is particularly challenging the judge’s ruling that it should have had detailed knowledge and awareness of what Mr McCloskey wrote -pointing out that such a ruling would mean they would have to have detailed knowledge of every article put up on a Facebook site and whether it could be considered illegal. The case promises to be an interesting one.

UPDATE: The judge has reserved judgement on the case after a two day hearing. Joseph McCloskey did not attend the court as there was a dispute as to whether he was entitled to legal aid.

 

Google bows to EU law and removes right to search for delisted posts

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Right to be Forgotten? Pic Credit: Index on Censorship.

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From Monday people in the UK and the rest of the European Union will no longer be able to bypass a ban on searching for information which an individual has asked to be removed from the net by Google.

Until now the removal of information by hundreds of thousands of people can easily be circumvented by searching on Google.com, the US version of the search engine.

However as the Inforrm blog reveals Google will block anyone with an IP address in Europe from seeing delisted posts. The full statement from Google is here. It will also be retrospective.

The decision is a victory for privacy campaigners though Inforrm thinks it may not go far enough for some.

Nearly 50,000 people  in the UK  are among the 400,000 who have requested for information to be removed. As Inforrm reports:

” Large numbers of delisting requests are now being made under the Google Spain ruling. Google’s most recent transparency report indicates that it has received 400,564 removal requests and has removed 42.6% of URLs covered by them.  Google has received 48,979 requests from the United Kingdom and has removed 184,115 URLs (38.6% of those requested).”.

While one can understand that people should have the right to remove false information from search engines what concerns me is  there is little transparency. One does not know who has requested the removal of the information and what information has been removed. Google just issues a statement to say that some posts are no longer available. Of course the post remains but people will have difficulty in finding it unless they subscribe to a particular blog.

Google has attempted with a FAQ to explain the main points behind the decision to delist – and there appears to be a view that there where there it is obviously not in the public interest or the person is a political  or public figure the request will be denied.

Google’s ban will not be foolproof – networks like Tor which is also used by the dark web – could mask the IP address of a person searching for the information. I suspect that investigative journalists will use this more as a new way of bypassing this ban if they want to do thorough searches.