A High Court in Northern Ireland has held Facebook and Joe McCloskey accountable for their actions when they shamed a paedophile on their social media account.
McCloskey has been found guilty of breaching the privacy of the convicted child abuser – McCloskey operates a Facebook page called “Keeping Our Kids Safe from Predators 2” – with the intent on naming and shaming the abusers in public and trying to produce a deterrent for the same actions again.
The judge in the case held McCloskey equally liable for misusing private information and ordered the closure of his Facebook page.
A child molester identified only as “CG” was released from prison in 2012 after serving a sentence for child abuse and has remained under supervision of local authorities since. “CG” filed a privacy action suit claiming harassment, violation of his right to privacy and breaches of the Data Protection Act against Facebook and McCloskey after his photograph and details appeared on the site in 2013.
According to “CG’s” complaint, after McCloskey’s post, he was bombarded with abusive comments and rants and was threatened with execution. Justice Stephens ordered Facebook to pay £20,000 ($30000) in damages to victim of such harassment.
“CG’s” lawyers argued that McCloskey’s Facebook page was nothing but vigilantism. McCloskey, however, told the court that he was doing public service and had named and shamed 400 such pedophiles through his Facebook page.
Judge Stephens thought otherwise and held that McCloskey set up the Facebook page to “destroy the family life of sex offenders, to expose them to total humiliation and vilification, to drive them from their homes and to expose them to the risk of serious harm. He knowingly encourages harassment of sex offenders by other individuals by the comments he makes and by the aim and purpose of the profile page”.
This is the first time in history that Facebook has been made a party to a page operated by its user and held accountable in a court of law.