Two-time European club champions Benfica have secured a High Court order directing Twitter to reveal the identity of those behind an account that has posted allegedly defamatory information about the club.
The social media company told Mr Justice Brian O’Moore, who granted the orders on Thursday, that it was neither consenting nor objecting to the orders.
The owners and operators of SL Benfica, Sport Lisboa E Benfica-Futebol, Sociedade Anonima Desportiva, sought the orders from the Irish High Court because Twitter’s European headquarters is based in Dublin.
The orders granted to the Portuguese club require the social media company to disclose the identity of the person or people behind the “@o_tal_pulha” account, which has allegedly posted defamatory material about the club.
Under the terms of the order, the social media company must provide Benfica with basic subscriber information including the names, telephone numbers, and email addresses provided by the registered users of the account.
IP address information relating to the account for the last 60 days, and for a one-week period between February 4th and February 10th, 2022, must also be disclosed.
It was acknowledged that Twitter may inform the account holder about the High Court’s order and that the club must also pay all of the costs incurred by Twitter in dealing with the application and providing the material sought.
Claims of impropriety
The club, represented by barrister David Fennelly, claims the account posted defamatory comments between October and February of this year, including allegations of financial and other impropriety against it.
The club denies the claims that were posted.
The orders were granted after the court was provided with a sworn statement by a Portuguese lawyer for the club outlining the legal courses of action being considered by the Lisbon-based club after it obtains the information from Twitter.
Lawyer David Silva Ramalho, for Benfica, said the club may take civil actions before the Portuguese courts seeking damages against the unknown person or persons behind the account for the alleged unlawful use and dissemination of private and confidential information, and for defamation.
He also said in his sworn statement that Portuguese damages claims for reputational harm are more typically pursued in the context of a private prosecution under Portugal’s penal code.
If Benfica is in a position to identify who is behind the Twitter account, he added, the club will have actionable claims against those persons under Portuguese law, he concluded.
Previously, the court was told the football club believes “o_tal_pulha” means “the scoundrels”, an ironic reference to a description used by former club president Luis Filipe Vieira to describe a section of supporters who criticised his failure to attend matches when the team was not performing well and he was recovering from Covid-19.
Benfica says that confidential material which it believes is ultimately derived from a 2017 hacking incident of the club’s IT system has been used by the account holder.
Three people were indicted for unlawful publication of private Benfica emails, arising out of that incident.
The trial, which commenced in September, is expected to last three months.
Benfica also brought civil proceedings against some parties who were ordered to pay €1.6 million in damages.
The o_tal_pulha posts began in April 2021 after Benfica successfully filed takedown notices for other hacked information that surfaced online.
It was claimed Twitter declined to take down the posts when asked to by Benfica.
After granting the orders the judge gave all the parties liberty to apply to the court, should the need arise.