Kriégel case: Gardaí launch investigation into online identification of boys

Court hears another boy was wrongly identified as being one of the 14-year-olds

Social media companies have been removing images that purport to identify the boys convicted of murdering schoolgirl Ana Kriégel from their platforms.

Social media companies have been removing images that purport to identify the boys convicted of murdering schoolgirl Ana Kriégel from their platforms.

 

Gardaí have launched an investigation into the circulation of images that claim to show the teenage boys found guilty of the murder of Ana Kriégel.

The images were circulated despite a court order being in place preventing the 14-year-old boys being named and a provision under the Children Act that prohibits the identification of minors accused or convicted of a criminal offence.

The Garda team based in Lucan, Co Dublin, that investigated the murder is now investigating whether the social media postings have broken the law.

The inquiry is likely to make use of specialist Garda units and is likely to seek the assistance of Facebook and Twitter in identifying certain account holders, a source told The Irish Times.

Earlier on Thursday, the Central Criminal Court was told a boy was wrongfully identified on social media as being one of the 14-year-olds responsible for the murder of Ana Kriégel.

Representatives of Twitter and Facebook appeared in court to answer charges of contempt following the publication of the boys’ pictures. The court, which had issued a temporary injunction against Facebook and Twitter to prevent the social media companies hosting material that identifies the two convicted boys, heard other children have also been implicated online.

Barrister Shelley Horan, representing a school that cannot be identified, also told Mr Justice Michael White a staff member of the school had been targeted, and comments about the trial posted on the school’s Facebook page.

The school cannot disable the comments and has to get Facebook to do so. The page is very important to the school, Ms Horan said.

‘Hiding’

Damien Colgan SC, for the family of Boy B, said publication of material online that identified him had “forced the family into hiding”, while Andrew McKeown, for the family of Boy A, said some of the tweets posted on Twitter included both the boys’ names and their images.

The publication was against a background of a “detritus of threats” against the boys’ families, including an image of the “fate that the user believed needed to be meted out to the two boys,” he said.

Rossa Fanning SC, for Facebook Ireland Ltd, and Andrew Fitzpatrick SC, for Twitter International Company, argued it was not practicable for the companies to be ordered to prevent people posting material that identified the two boys.

However, both companies were very anxious to remove such material once it came to their attention.

Both men said their clients were very respectful of the rule of law and the court process, and had taken steps to remove material from their platforms once it had come to their attention.

“There are certain things we can’t do,” Mr Fanning said. Facebook did not know the names of the two boys. If someone did post the boys’ names, then the company would not know that was an identification. The company should not be subjected to a prior restraint order that it could not comply with.

‘Advance stop’

Mr Fitzpatrick said Twitter “cannot in advance stop what people choose to do on Twitter.”

Brendan Grehan SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said an ex parte application had been made on Wednesday because the boys were being identified on social media and there was a need to act before the material went viral.

Mr Grehan said the DPP wished the injunction order should remain in existence. “I want some responsibility to be shouldered by the platform providers,” he said.

Mr Justice White agreed with a change to the order’s wording that the companies had to remove material that identified the two boys which they became aware of or which was brought to their attention. The matter was put back to July 5th and the order remains in place until then.

Mr Justice White said the main concern was that “some idiots” might identify the boys on social media. An Garda Síochána should investigate any such incidents with vigour.

The court did not deal with an application from the DPP that the two technology giants face committal or sequestration orders for allegedly being in contempt of courts. Mr Grehan said the DPP did not accept the view that “all we can do is stand by and shrug our shoulders” while material was posted on the internet that breached court orders.