Temporary arrangement reached in case involving businessman and Facebook

Qatari billionaire seeking information on who was behind ‘fake ads’

Mr Al Mana wants to sue Facebook Ireland Ltd, as the social media giant’s headquarter location for Europe. Photograph: Getty

Mr Al Mana wants to sue Facebook Ireland Ltd, as the social media giant’s headquarter location for Europe. Photograph: Getty

 

A temporary arrangement has been reached regarding a billionaire businessman’s application for information from Facebook aimed at establishing who was behind certain “fake ads” that appeared on the social media platform, the High Court has heard.

Wissam Al Mana, a UK-based Qatari national, has sued over adverts which he says wrongly and maliciously used his name and image. He says those were published on several occasions from May 2019 by persons unknown to him using the Facebook Ads Tool. The adverts contain a fake news article which he claims wrongly links him to a cryptocurrency auto-trading program called Bitcoin trader. He says he has nothing to do with the programme.

While the ads were removed following complaints made by Mr Al Mana’s representatives, he is concerned there may be publication of future fake ads containing his name and image.

Mr Al Mana wants to sue Facebook Ireland Ltd, as the social media giant’s headquarter location for Europe, and the parties behind the adverts, for defamation and malicious falsehood.

For those proceedings, his lawyers sought an order, known as a ‘Norwich Pharmacal’ order, which would require Facebook to disclose any identifying information it has about the persons that placed the ads. Because differences arose between the sides over that application, the matter was due to be heard before a judge later this week. However, on Wednesday, Mr Justice David Barniville was told, following discussions, the parties have entered into a temporary arrangement with the effect a hearing was not required during the Covid-19 health emergency.

The judge, on foot of the arrangement, ordered that Facebook provide Mr Al Mana’s side within 14 days with details including basic subscriber information, IP addresses, and payment method details of those who created and published the adverts complained of.

The information should be the details provided when the accounts in question were first registered with the social media company, he said.

Paul O’Higgins SC, for Mr Al Mana, said his side was agreeing under “protest” to the arrangement.

Under pressure

His side was under pressure to bring defamation proceedings within the one year legal limit allowed and had wanted the information within 10 days, not 14 days, he said.

Cian Ferriter SC, for Facebook, said it was not consenting to the order but would abide by it.

The 14 days was shorter than the normal period for such court orders, he added.

Mr Ferriter said his side was concerned, for technical reasons, it might not be able to provide the information sought when it was first registered with Facebook.

The judge said, if technical issues prevented Facebook from complying with the order, that could be dealt with when the matter returns before the court in late April.

Mr Al Mana is executive director of the Al Mana Group, comprising more than 50 companies involved in sectors including property, technology, media, entertainment, retail and the motor industry.

He married pop star Janet Jackson, a sister of the late Michael Jackson, in 2012, but the pair separated in 2017.