The Circuit Court has awarded €75,000 in damages against a Facebook user who had posted a comment suggesting that a certain individual has caused the National Regional Game Council which regulates game shooting in Ireland to go “broke”.
It was asserted by Mr. Desmond Crofton, the National Director of the National Regional Game Council, that this post caused questions to be asked about the running of the organisation and in particular about its’ finances. This comment resulted in Mr. Crofton being suspended from his position, with full pay, while an investigation took place. The Defendant in this case, Mr. John Gilsenan did not appear in Court. Judge John O’Hagan stated that he was granting the maximum allowable damages in the Circuit Court and stated that his Order should “teach people posting messages on the social media site to be very careful”.
In light of the above decisions it is evident that even though an ISP such as Facebook may have a defence to allegedly defamatory material posted by Facebook users, the Norwich Pharmacal Order procedure will open up certain avenues whereby Plaintiffs can issue proceedings against the individuals in question who posted the defamatory comments. Taking into consideration the decision by Judge O’Hagan to grant Mr Crofton the maximum amount of damages available in the Circuit Court, it would appear that the Courts are willing to penalise individuals heavily as a result of their comments/posts online.