Convicted child abuser awarded $30000 in damages against Facebook

Paedophile naming and shaming Facebook page operator and Facebook held guilty of misusing private information

Now this is a whammy for Facebook.  It has been held guilty by a High Court judge in Northern Ireland, along with the paedophile monitoring Facebook page operator, Joe McCloskey for breaching the privacy of a unnamed complainant who is a convicted child abuser.

Joe McCloskey operated a Facebook page called ‘Keeping Our Kids Safe From Predators 2’ with the purpose of naming and shaming child abusers in public and acting as a deterrent for such kind of acts. However based on a complaint filed by man identified only as CG, Mr.Justice Stephens held that Facebook will have to pay £20,000 ($30000) in damages to CG.

The judge also held the page operator, McCloskey equally liable for misusing private information and ordered the closure of the ‘Keeping Our Kids Safe From Predators 2’ Facebook page.

Judge Stephens ruled in favour of CG who had filed a privacy action suit because he held that information published indiscriminately could have threatened public order and incited violence and hatred.

“It was an attempt to hunt a sex offender, to drive him from his home and to expose him to vilification,” he said.

This is the first time Facebook has been made party to a page operated by its user and held guilty on that count. Lawyers for CG state that this would open doors for many others who had been similarly aggrieved.

CG was released from prison in 2012 after serving a sentence for child abuse and has now been assessed as posing no significant risk to the society though he remains under supervision of the authorities.

CG filed the 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, a year after he had served his prison sentence.

CG stated in his plea that after the post appeared on McCloskey’s page, he received a barrage of abusive comments and rants.  Another user disclosed his location and called for him to be hung while others endorsed shooting or castrating him.

One of the posters stated: “I would tie him to a tree and put a blow torch where he wouldn’t want it. And enjoy watching him in pain.” Another stated, “If you see, kill the ****.”

CG produced evidence to support his claim that he was also threatened to being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.

His lawyers who successfully argued the case, stated that McCloskey’s Facebook page was nothing but vigilantism.

McCloskey on his part told the court that he was operating the Facebook page as a public service and had already  “named and shamed” 400 such paedophiles through his page.  He also defended his stance by saying that he had already posted disclaimer on his Facebook page which opposes any violence of intimidation.

Judge Stephens however 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”.

The judge added: “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.”

Judge Stephens said that CG’s offences were “despicable criminal conduct” but at the same time he had served his time in prison for the offences and thus, should be protected.

“On the other hand there should be and there are in place public protection arrangements in order to assess the risks they continue to pose together with supervision of them in the community so that the public are protected,” the judgement read.

The judge penalised both Facebook and McCloskey for misuse of private information, with a further finding against the page operator for unlawful harassment and fined $23000 for the same.

Resource : Irish Times.

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