Facebook took steps to address challenges prior to Ana Kriégel murder trial

Company gave Courts Service a dedicated email channel to raise matters of concern

Rossa Fanning, senior counsel for Facebook, leaving Dublin’s Central Criminal Court during a break in Thursday’s contempt hearing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Rossa Fanning, senior counsel for Facebook, leaving Dublin’s Central Criminal Court during a break in Thursday’s contempt hearing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Facebook Ireland took steps prior to the Ana Kriégel murder trial to address the challenges it would create for the social media operator, the Central Criminal Court was told.

Eoin McDonald, market manager, community operations, with Facebook Ireland, told the court in an affidavit that on March 28th last its public policy team met with Gerry Curran, head of media relations with the Courts Service, to discuss the trial.

Two boys, described in the media as Boy A and Boy B, were convicted on Tuesday of the murder of Ms Kriégel (14), after an eight-week trial.

The two 14-year-old boys are awaiting sentence and it is against the law to reveal their identities.

A temporary order against Facebook and Twitter, instructing the companies to remove any material that identifies the boys, was issued by the courts on Wednesday and is to be mentioned again on July 5th.

Urgent situations

Mr McDonald told Mr Justice Michael White that Facebook gave the Courts Service a dedicated email channel though which it could raise matters of concern. The “trusted partner channel” is used in “particularly urgent situations”.

At 9.30am on the day after the boys were found guilty, Mr McDonald became aware that Facebook’s content review team had begun to see user content regarding the two boys’ identities, and had begun removing it.

To prevent similar pictures being posted, Facebook “banked” the images, by which he meant assigned it a unique digital fingerprint that allowed it to be identified if someone tried to reshare it.

“Photo and video-matching technology is only able to identify with certainty identical versions of the same image and cannot identify attempts to share modified versions of the same images,” Mr McDonald said.

Mr Curran was contacted on Wednesday morning to inform him that Facebook was deleting images in accordance with its community standards.

That same day, at 4.30pm, the company learned that Facebook Ireland had been summoned to court to answer allegations it was in contempt of court, following an ex-parte application by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Pro-active

Mr McDonald said that under the EU ecommerce directive, Facebook is a conduit of information which is posted on its site, and is not a publisher.

An affidavit was also submitted to the court by Twitter in which it said it had deleted images that had been brought to its attention following Wednesday’s court application by the DPP.

Brendan Grehan SC, for the DPP, said it appeared the two companies had acted in good faith and that Facebook’s efforts had been more pro-active than those of Twitter.

The issue of whether the two companies were guilty of contempt for hosting material that identified the boys was not dealt with by Mr Justice White, who said he understood very well the difficult position the companies were in.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Facebook, said there was no basis for Facebook to be accused of criminal contempt. Mr Justice White said he accepted that both companies had acted in good faith.