Court orders removal of Dublin taxi YouTube clip

DCU student took case against websites after wrongly identified for fare evasion

A DCU student brought a case against YouTube, Google, Facebook and a number of websites over the video and accompanying material which wrongly identified him as a man leaving a taxi without paying the fare in Monkstown, Co Dublin. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A DCU student brought a case against YouTube, Google, Facebook and a number of websites over the video and accompanying material which wrongly identified him as a man leaving a taxi without paying the fare in Monkstown, Co Dublin. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Thu, May 16, 2013, 15:41

Arrangements must be made within the next month to permanently remove an internet video clip falsely accusing a student of taxi fare evasion, a High Court judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Michael Peart made the order in a case brought by a DCU student, against YouTube, Google, Facebook and a number of websites over the video and accompanying material which wrongly identified him as a man leaving a taxi without paying the fare in Monkstown, Co Dublin.

The student sought a mandatory injunction requiring the internet companies to permanently remove the video and other material.

Today, Mr Justice Peart ordered that experts for the student meet with experts for the internet companies on how to go about taking down the material permanently on a worldwide basis.

The experts should be nominated within 14 days and the meeting between them take place within the following fortnight. When reports have been prepared an exchanged, the matter can come back before the court to “consider the position which emerges”, the judge said.

Mr Justice Peart previously found that the student was grossly defamed in the video because he was incontrovertibly not the person in it. He gave this ruling when refusing a separate bid by the student to stop newspapers identifying him.

In dealing with his injunction application against the internet companies today, pending full hearing of his action for damages over the matter, the judge said after the taxi driver involved had posted the video asking if anyone could identify the person in his cab, one person wrongly named the student who was in Japan at the time.

There followed, the judge said, “a miscellany of the most vile, crude, obscene and generally obnoxious comments” about the man on YouTube and Facebook.

The clip went viral and “all manner of nasty and seemingly idle minds got to work and as seems to happen with apparent impunity nowadays on social media sites”, posted whatever vile and abusive first thing that came into the “vacant, idle and meddlesome heads,” the judge said.

The student, having returned from Japan, tried to have the material removed which was no easy task even though Google, in all its guises, and Facebook, claim that their sites contain an effective self-delete facility to allow him remove it, he said.

He also attempted to do so before taking his court action but the self-delete facility was limited in scope and, for instance, remains viewable and accessible from abroad.

While the defendants had argued that the student should not get an injunction because he had not revealed in his initial court papers that he tried the self-delete facility, the judge was satisfied it did not affect the genuineness of his claim.

Given his clear innocence, it was a surprise to the judge that the defendants did not assist him more in getting the material removed.