The recent publication on the Facebook page of KildareNow (an online-only news service for County Kildare) of an image of a man falsely accused of being a threat to children has received extensive coverage in the media.
A member of the public posted a photograph of David Murray on the KildareNow Facebook page and said that the image was that of Anthony Luckwell, a man convicted of sexual offences against children. As a result, Mr Murray had to receive Garda protection. It has been reported that Mr Murray approached KildareNow requesting that his image be taken down off Facebook and that it took KildareNow seven hours to publish a retraction.
The identity of the person who posted the image has not been established. By any standards Mr Murray has been a victim of appalling treatment. It has been reported that Mr Murray has decided not to pursue defamation action against the person who posted his image or KildareNow or Facebook. Mr Murray has however sought redress through the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
However, membership of the Press Council of Ireland is voluntary (all national newspapers, most local newspapers, many magazines and some online-only news services are members) and KildareNow is not a member of the Press Council. Therefore, the Office of the Press Ombudsman cannot use its complaints handling processes in response to Mr Murray’s complaint. This leaves him with no regulatory body to turn to in seeking redress.
The Press Council and the Press Ombudsman have called for the introduction of a regulatory system for social media such as Facebook. Under the current arrangements the vast majority of the press is subject to independent regulation and broadcasting is subject to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. Social media are, however, subject to no regulation, independent or otherwise. They should be required to develop an independent regulatory body that would offer a fair means of redress for people who believe that information about themselves posted on social media is inaccurate or misleading. If social media cannot or will not put in place such structures they should be made subject to national and/or international governmental oversight.
For further Information or for Interview Requests for Peter Feeney, Press Ombudsman, contact the Office of the Press Ombudsman at 01 6489130, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org