LIMERICK TD Willie O’Dea has branded the behaviour of social networking site, Facebook, as “appalling” and “very irresponsible” in its treatment of local businessman JP McManus.
he former Minister for Defence was speaking after the multimillionaire businessman and race horse owner brought High Court proceedings against Facebook Ireland over the social networking website’s alleged failure to take down a number of profiles purporting to be him.
“It’s absolutely appalling and very irresponsible for people, if it’s brought to their attention that my page is being done by somebody else, that the people who own Facebook won’t take the thing down. There should be some mechanism to take these things down,” said Deputy O’Dea this Monday.
“I think that if somebody like JP takes a case to court and succeeds, which I think he will, then Facebook should be heavily fined and made pay every penny of the damages so as to encourage them to do it in future, voluntarily, (take down the sites). What is the big problem that they can’t do it?” he added.
The Limerick TD who has a Facebook page himself, was at the centre of an on-line controversy a number of years ago when a company attempted to gain profit from his name by offering to sell him his website. The company, which advertised brothels around Ireland, had offered to sell his site to him for £200,000.
Last Friday it was revealed that lawyers for Mr McManus asked the High Court for permission to notify Facebook Ireland of his intention to take proceedings due to their alleged failure to take down three identified Facebook sites.
It is understood the Facebook profiles at the centre of the proceedings stated they were ‘JP McManus’ and contained photos of him. The social networking service and website has more than 600m users worldwide.
The application by Mr McManus for injunctions to force Facebook to shut down accounts claiming to be him were struck out at the High Court this Monday, after the court heard the profiles have now been taken down. Separate proceedings by Mr McManus against Facebook for alleged breach of privacy will be heard later.
“As far as the case is concerned I think it must be an open and shut case, people can’t be presenting themselves as somebody else impersonating other people which is effectively what they are doing,” continued Deputy O’Dea. “Obviously from what I can gather, he (Mr McManus) tried to get them to take it down and it’s most unreasonable, when it’s pointed out to them that it’s not the person in question, for them not to take them down,” he added.
The Fianna Fail TD said that the social network site gave scope for “the most outrageous things” to be said by people under a false guise “and other people are reading them, thinking that I am saying them because it’s under my name. I think it’s appalling that the people who own Facebook won’t take the thing down immediately when they are informed and once the source authenticated,” he continued.
In relation to his own Facebook site, the Limerick Deputy said as far as he is aware there is only one site “but I’m sure that if other things start appearing they will be brought to my attention.”