Order on internet messages welcomed


A High Court order secured by an Irish oil exploration firm aimed at identifying individuals who allegedly posted defamatory material about it on internet message boards has “significant” ramifications for Irish society, lawyers for the firm said last night.

The case was brought by Irish company US Oil Gas plc with a view to suing individuals who made the comments, which were followed by a “catastrophic” fall of some £132 million (€163 million) in its market value in recent weeks.

The oil exploration firm secured the court orders on Wednesday with a view to suing those who allegedly posed defamatory messages on three websites – boards.ieoperated by Boards.IE Ltd, an Irish company; iii.co.uk, operated by London South East Ltd, a UK company; and lse.co.uk, operated by two related companies, Interactive Investor Trading Ltd and Interactive Investor plc, between November 8th and 22nd.

The websites had taken down the material when the complaint was made.

Jon Legorburu, head of litigation at ByrneWallace, said the judgment “clearly indicates a judicial predilection to taking steps to ensure people and companies are protected in relation to abusive behaviour that occurs online”.

‘Tip of iceberg’

He claimed the judgment was “the tip of the iceberg” and would be relevant to a number of societal issues.

“This concerns everyone in society: from teenagers who are suffering from online harassment, to the disclosure of private documents online, to women who are being stalked through Facebook or other social media sites.”

He called on the Government to introduce legislation to give courts “greater legal certainty” on the issue. “It’s only through legislation and Government action that we will have a fair and comprehensive system in place.”