Social media sites face sanctions under bill for publishing prejudicial content

Josepha Madigan
Josepha Madigan

A private member’s bill allowing for social media companies to be slapped with unlimited fines if they fail to remove posts that risk prejudicing criminal trials will be published this week.

Solicitor and Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan is pressing on with her Contempt of Court Bill in spite of scepticism from civil liberties groups and legal academics.

Under the bill, the courts will be able to order the removal of prejudicial content from social media websites like Facebook or Twitter, and will be able to order social media companies to take “reasonably necessary” steps to prevent the publication of such posts in the first place.

If they fail to comply, the companies will be found in contempt of court and ISPs could be ordered to block access to the prejudicial content.

Ms Madigan’s original proposal in the summer was to simply make it a statutory offence to comment on an ongoing criminal trial.

That was criticised by Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, who told Irish Legal News it would be “a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression”.

Dr Eoin O’Dell, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin, also told ILN the existing law “seems to be functioning well”.

Ms Madigan’s revised proposal will go before the Dáil tomorrow.

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