Google not objecting to order to provide Micheál Martin with identities of those behind ‘fake adverts’

Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader claims he has been defamed by links to alleged cryptocurrency scam

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has resolved High Court proceedings he brought against Google seeking information about the people behind “fake adverts” allegedly used to defame him.

The Fianna Fáil leader claims the ads, which appeared on legitimate websites, wrongly used his image and contained links to false “pseudo-newspaper articles” associating him with a cryptocurrency scam.

Mr Martin was last week permitted by the court to bring proceedings against Google Ireland Ltd and its parent, Google LLC, in which he sought the identity of those responsible.

The matter returned to court on Thursday when Padraic Lyons SC, with Daragh Breen BL, instructed by solicitor Catherine Ardagh, told the court that an agreement had been reached following discussions between the parties. The court could make a series of orders in favour of Mr Martin to which Google was not objecting, counsel said.


The orders require Google to provide Mr Martin with information about the adverts, including the names, email addresses and phone numbers relating to the accounts associated with the relevant adverts within 21 days.

Google must also provide details it has of any financial accounts or services used to pay the internet company or the publication of the adverts and details of any IP addresses from which the accounts were accessed to procure the publication of the adverts.

Counsel said Google, in accordance with its usual policies, may inform the owners of the accounts that placed the ads of its intention to disclose the information to Mr Martin.

Mr Martin acknowledges Google will not be liable for any subscriber information provided that turns out to be false, incorrect or misleading due to the fault of the relevant account holders, counsel said. He also agrees that if any of the information disclosed contains personal data, it will be held per all applicable data protection laws.

Mr Lyons said the motion and the proceedings could be struck out, with no order as to costs. Counsel said both sides have liberty to return to the court in respect of the orders, should the need arise

Eileen Barrington SC, for the defendants, said her side was neither objecting nor consenting to the orders being made by the court.

Mr Justice Mark Sanfey welcomed the settlement of the action and said the orders that the court was asked to make were appropriate in the circumstances. He then struck out the action.

Previously, the court heard Google took the ads down and the advertiser’s accounts were suspended under the platform’s “egregious policy violations”. Google informed Mr Martin’s lawyers that such ads are part of a “global trend” of “scammy bad actors trying to deceive users by enticing them to click into an ad by using popular figures/celebrities along with provocative text or content”.

In an affidavit, Mr Martin said two display ads appeared last July on legitimate websites of the Irish Times, Irish Independent and Done Deal. They were linked to a “lengthy pseudo-newspaper article”.

One ad featured a photograph of Mr Martin overlaid over photographs of a luxury residence with a swimming pool and a jet aircraft typically used as a private aircraft with text including: “He shared important information”.

The second ad featured another photo of Mr Martin in a public setting with text stating: “He did not want to hide this possibility from the people of Ireland”.

When a user clicked on the fake newspaper article, purporting to be from the Irish Independent, they saw a headline “Micheál Martin’s Latest Investment Has The Government and Big Banks Terrified”, alongside several photos of Mr Martin.

He said the article purported to reproduce excerpts of interviews Mr Martin gave to RTE and the Irish Times in which he supposedly endorsed a “new wealth loophole”, namely a cryptocurrency auto trading programme.

Mr Martin believes the “Immediate Edge” trading platform appears to be fraudulent, and is certainly an unauthorised and unregulated scheme designed to target vulnerable people. He wants to bring an action for defamation and “passing off” against those behind the ads.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Martin welcomed the High Court’s decision and said he awaited the provision of the information by Google about the “completely unacceptable” adverts.

“Every citizen should be entitled to request and receive information relating to the bad actors behind these schemes. The Tánaiste also believes there is a significant onus on large tech companies, including Google, to do all they can to ensure their platforms and products are not weaponised by bad actors and scammers.”

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