An Irishman has been ordered to pay €75,000 ($84,570) in damages for defamatory Facebook postings.
The man was ordered by the Monaghan Circuit Court to pay damages after he posted comments on the social media platform about the National Director of the National Association of Regional Game Councils.
The Irish Times reports that Desmond Crofton, 63, from Stonestown, County Offaly, took the civil action against John Gilsenan, from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, in relation to a Facebook comment posted on or about December 22, 2015.
Crofton said comments resulted in questions being raised by members about the organization’s finances and legal costs and had led to him being suspended on full pay.
Gilsenan failed to appear in court. Counsel said that he had engaged in early communication with the plaintiff, but he had since “abandoned” the matter.
Judge John O’Hagan awarded the maximum allowable damages and told the court that his order should “teach people posting messages on the social media site to be very careful.”
A Digital Rights Ireland spokesman said it was a “big ruling to get in the Circuit Court” and described it as a “wake-up call for a lot of people.”
He said people need to remember that they are online and are not engaged in “pub talk.”
“Often they are talking off the top of their heads and they don’t have any facts,” the spokesman said. “To them it’s like pub talk and it goes away at the end of the night.”
However, once online they turn into publishers and are subject to the same defamation laws as newspapers. They have “committed something to writing” and are speaking to a large audience of people they do not know.
“There’s a feeling that the old laws [offline] don’t apply online, but they do,” he said.
“Irish defamation laws are pretty strict. There’s a very low bar for what defamation is in our system.”