When Facebook goes wrong

At last count, Facebook is said to have around 1.59 billion daily users around the world.  We are unlikely to know anyone amongst our friends and families who do not have a Facebook account.

It is therefore unsurprising that complaints regarding Facebook content are becoming more common.

HHD have dealt with a number of cases against Facebook in recent years and this year, HHD received one such complaint from a client who noticed inflammatory material displayed on Facebook regarding his personal circumstances.  The content was at times violent in nature and also contained his Facebook profile picture from his private account.

The inflammatory material was reported to Facebook via their community reporting tool.  Facebook responded by saying the material did not breach their community standards.

HHD managed to secure an interim injunction against Facebook Ireland Ltd from the High Court which directed that the inflammatory material be removed within 24 hours.

The main cases on point in Northern Ireland are CG v Facebook Ireland & Another [2016] NICA 54; [2017] 2 CMLR 1007, J20 v Facebook Ireland Ltd [2017] NICA 48 and XY v Facebook Ireland Ltd [2012] NIQB 96. The principles to be distilled from them are as follows:

  1. Facebook do not have a duty to monitor content.  However, if offending material is brought to their attention, they have a duty to remove it promptly.
  2. If Facebook fail to remove the material promptly, they assume liability for it, even though they neither produced nor generated it.  Any delay in the order of a few days or longer will render it liable in monetary damages.  This clearly grounds an emergency interim injunction.
  3. The causes of action upon which such a case against Facebook will be grounded includes:

(i) the tort of misuse of private information,

(ii) a breach of reasonable expectation of privacy contrary to common law and/or article 8 of the Convention (due to the publication of a private picture from the client’s Facebook account in conjunction with other information that was likely to identify where he/she lived.

(iii) breach of data protection/GDPR legislation, in the light of the fact that Facebook is clearly a data processor.

This case is an example of the responsibility we all share in respect of the content we post and or share on Facebook or indeed other social media outlets.

If you require advice in relation to this area of law, please get in touch with our team of experienced solicitors at HHD by email at enquiries@hhdsolicitors.com or 028 90770770.

Charlene Dempsey