New plan will target use of social media in court

Social networks could face large fines for posts that could prejudice a trial

Social networks could face massive fines if they fail to take down posts that could prejudice a trial.

Fine Gael is due to publish a bill aimed at clarifying situations for judges dealing with Contempt of Court issues.

The bill would push responsibility for online content back on to tech giants like Facebook and Twitter – rather than on the individual who posts it.

According to The Irish Independent, the courts would also be able to force tech giants to remove certain content.

It follows the Jobstown trial earlier this year in which six men were cleared of false imprisonment charges  relating to a water charge protest.

The use of social media during the trial led to concerns it was not being treated in the same manner as traditional media.

Under current contempt of court rules, it is an offense to publish any material that might influence a jury in the run-up to – and especially during – a trial.

Both the Supreme Court and the Law Reform Commission have previously called for contempt of court to be fully defined in legislation.

The new bill, written by Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan, would see courts empowered to force companies to remove or prevent the publication of prejudicial content.

Trial judges would be allowed to decide the level of fine imposed on any company who fails to comply.