Facebook unable to find allegedly defamatory post about TD

Internal investigation tried to locate post, person responsible for it, High Court hears

It appeared the February 2020 post was permanently deleted from the Facebook platform and it is not possible to retrieve a record of it, counsel said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

It appeared the February 2020 post was permanently deleted from the Facebook platform and it is not possible to retrieve a record of it, counsel said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Facebook has told the High Court that a social media post last year which former FF TD Frank O’ Rourke claims defamed him has been permanently deleted and cannot be located.

An internal investigation at Facebook Ireland attempted to locate the post and who was responsible for it but was unable to,Rossa Fanning SC said.

It appeared the February 2020 post was permanently deleted from the Facebook platform and it is not possible to retrieve a record of it, counsel said.

“We believe the post was permanently deleted. We can’t find it. Any attempt to identify the poster would be a speculative exercise,” counsel said.

Mr O’Rourke had gone to court seeking an order requiring Facebook provide details of an account which he claims was responsible for a social media post which allegedly defamed him.

In separate actions against Twitter International Company and Facebook Ireland Ltd, Mr O’Rourke sought details so he can identify the posters and sue them for defamation.

He wants details including the account holders’ names and email and IP addresses. He previously secured orders against Twitter and Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds was told on Friday by his counsel, Declan Doyle SC, his side had obtained the identity of somebody who may have posted or retweeted a matter on Twitter

Wholly untrue statements

Representing Fianna Fáil, Mr O’Rourke of Dublin Road, Celbridge was elected as TD for North Kildare in 2016. In last year’s election, he lost his seat after finishing fifth in the four-seater constituency.

He claims wholly untrue statements posted about him on social media last February were designed “to cause maximum professional damage to me” in the 2020 General Election, at a time he was going through “a difficult marriage breakdown”.

He claims members of the public told him they had seen “horrible stuff” about him on social media and his political supporters received “negative feedback on the doorsteps of North Kildare” following the publication of the comments.

He also alleges untrue posts were made on Facebook pages associated with the Celbridge area about his family life and his personal financial matters which were designed to show he was unfit to serve in Dáil Éireann.

He further claims that a tweet put out shortly before the election which called on people not to vote for him contained untrue and defamatory statements about his personal life.

Mr Doyle said Mr O’Rourke had complained about the post on Facebook within 24 hours of it going up.

Ms Justice Reynolds granted an order directing Facebook to give Mr O’Rourke all details of the Facebook account where the alleged post is believed to have come from. If Facebook cannot provide the information, it can set out on affidavit any difficulties it has in complying with the court order, she said.