Belfast-based Glentoran FC and its manager Michael McDermott have obtained a Supreme Court order requiring Twitter to disclose certain details about an account allegedly publishing defamatory material about the club.
The club and Mr McDermott claim that the account “@AngryRooster82” has posted “painful and offensive” material that is incorrect and has the potential to damage and undermine the reputation of the Premier League team and its manager.
The Supreme Court heard that material posted on the account erroneously indicated that the plaintiffs engaged in “improper and unlawful dealings”, were “corrupt”, unfit to join the League, and “adopted homophobic views”.
Twitter did not oppose or agree to the order being granted during Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing by Justice Elaine Roberts.
Counsellor Rosa Fanning said her position on this or any similar type of order should not be taken as implicit support for the orders being requested.
The lawyer added that Twitter, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, supports freedom of expression, protection of users’ privacy and data protection rights as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the General Data Protection Act.
He added that Twitter is an important vehicle for social and political disclosure and that the risks of identifying uses and suffering negative consequences must be taken into account when considering applications like this.
Glentoran and Mr. McDermott, who are represented by Niall Buckley BL, on instructions from attorney Paul Tweed, sought what is known as a Norwich Pharmacal order against Twitter, which requires the social media company to provide them with the names of anyone using the account.
The details being looked up included the IP address associated with the account, as well as device data, email, postal addresses, and phone numbers associated with the account.
Buckley said his customers do not know who is behind the account, which refers to the rooster, which is present in the Belfast club crest and crest.
Prosecutors fear that unless they get this information from Twitter, the posts and the malicious campaign against them may continue, and they may want to take further action against anyone behind the account.
Buckley said most of the posts complained about appeared in May and June of this year.
After reaching out to Twitter, when its clients requested that the account be suspended, the attorney said that a form or partial order had been agreed between the two parties.
Twitter will provide its customers with the basic subscriber information they sought regarding the account, and when the account was registered.
Mr Buckley said that as part of the request agreed with Twitter, it would only provide IP address information related to the account when it was registered within the last 60 days.
The lawyer said Twitter said that for technical reasons it would be difficult for it to go back beyond the 60-day review period.
The lawyer said the 60-day period may be sufficient for his clients’ needs.
The lawyer said that given that several of the publications complained of were filed in June and May this year, putting it out of the 60-day period, his client may have to return to the courts to request an extension.
Judge Roberts said she was satisfied with the orders requested and postponed the case in case the plaintiffs needed to return to court for further orders until a date in October.