Broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan has received an unreserved apology from Facebook as part of the settlement of her High Court action over several defamatory and untrue adverts that were posted on the social media platform.
Included in the settlement agreement, Meta Platforms Ireland, formerly known as Facebook Ireland, has agreed to establish an additional scam ad reporting tool which will allow Irish users to report more details on misleading adverts to a specialist team within Facebook for review.
Speaking after the settlement, the RTÉ broadcaster said it was "a good day" following a five-year battle over the misleading ads which, she said, had caused her distress and had damaged her reputation.
She also expressed her delight that, not only had the fake ads been taken down, but Facebook is also to introduce an additional tool which allows people to report scam ads.
In proceedings launched against Facebook Ireland three years ago, Ms O'Callaghan claimed she was defamed, and sought damages, over a series of false and malicious adverts containing her image and name on Facebook and Instagram in May 2018.
At the High Court on Friday, Paul O'Higgins SC, instructed by solicitor Paul Tweed, for Ms O'Callaghan said the matter had been settled against Facebook.
As part of the settlement, Facebook’s counsel Joe Jeffers read an agreed statement to the court, where it was acknowledged that the proceedings over the publication of misleading adverts published on Facebook by “malicious third parties” had been resolved.
“These adverts contained fabricated statements, which have been extremely damaging to Ms O’Callaghan. Meta Platforms Ireland accepts and regrets that the publication of these ads has caused Ms O’Callaghan distress and embarrassment, and regrets any wider concerns and distress caused by the ads.
“Meta Platforms Ireland apologises unreservedly to Ms O’Callaghan.”
The statement added that the broadcaster is satisfied that the publication of the fake adverts, using her name and image, appears to have ceased.
Previously the High Court heard that the adverts at the centre of the action contained various misleading and defamatory headlines wrongly suggesting that Ms O’Callaghan had left her job with RTÉ’s Prime Time programme.
Ms O’Callaghan said she had “nothing to do” with the adverts, which are linked to offers for skincare products. She claimed she was most distressed at being associated against her will with what has been described as “a scam product”, the court heard.
She claims the adverts exploited the trust placed in her by the Irish public and damaged her good name and reputation.
The paid for adverts, known as “targeted advertisements”, appear on social media users’ newsfeeds, and are designed to encourage the user to click on them. Those who click through are offered various skincare products, which were falsely stated to be owned or endorsed by Ms O’Callaghan.
Outside the court Mr Tweed said his client welcomed the successful resolution of the proceedings. The settlement he said had achieved his client’s objectives of terminating the fake ads, vindicating Ms O’Callaghan’s reputation, and has brought about something that will afford Irish Facebook users more protection.