A High Court judge has urged representatives of Facebook and a billionaire businessman to try to resolve their differences over his application for information about those behind “fake ads” that appeared on the social media platform.
Wissam Al Mana, a UK-based Qatari national, has brought proceedings over adverts which he says wrongly and maliciously used his name and image, and were published on several occasions since May by persons unknown to him using the Facebook Ads Tool.
He says the adverts contain a fake news article, using sensational headings and featuring his name and image, which wrongly link him to a cryptocurrency auto-trading program called Bitcoin Trader, which he has nothing to do with.
While the ads were removed following complaints by Mr Al Mana’s representatives, he is concerned about possible publication of future fake ads containing his name and image.
Mr Al Mana wants to sue Facebook Ireland Ltd, the company’s European headquarters; the parties behind the adverts and Facebook for defamation and malicious falsehood.
As part of his action, his lawyers want a court order, known as a ‘Norwich Pharmacal’ order, requiring Facebook to disclose details that would allow them to identify the unknown persons that placed the ads for the purpose of his bringing proceedings against them.
He wants Facebook to provide information including their names and addresses, emails and phone numbers, details concerning the advertisers IP addresses, payment methods and billing address, and their business names.
When the application for that order was briefly mentioned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds at the High Court on Wednesday, Anna Shanley BL, for Mr Al Mana, said the sides had been in discussions but an issue remained outstanding.
Counsel said there was some urgency to the application because any defamation case against those behind the fake ads must be brought within 12 months of first publication. That deadline is in May and the dispute may need to be heard and ruled on by the court, counsel said.
Cian Ferriter SC, for Facebook, said one net issue remains between the parties and there was some dispute over the urgency of the matter. In exceptional cases, the 12 month deadline can be extended to 24 months and the Covid-19 pandemic was certainly an exceptional ground to extend, counsel said.
His side was concerned about bringing two legal teams to court in the current climate, he added.
Ms Justice Reynolds urged the sides to continue their efforts to resolve their differences and adjourned the matter for a week. She was prepared to hear the application if the sides could not reach an agreement, she said.
Mr Al Mana is executive director of the AlMana Group, which consists of more than 50 companies involved in sectors including property, technology, media, entertainment, retail and the motor industry.
He married the pop star Janet Jackson, a sister of the late Michael Jackson, in 2012. They separated in 2017.