Court rules Tánaiste can bring proceedings against Google over identity of false advertisers

Court Rules Tánaiste Can Bring Proceedings Against Google Over Identity Of False Advertisers
Mr Justice Mark Sanfey granted Padraic Lyons SC, instructed by solicitor Catherine Ardagh, permission to serve at short notice the proceedings on Google Ireland and its US parent Google LLC.
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High Court Reporters

Micheál Martin has been given the go ahead by the High Court to bring proceedings against Google seeking the identities of those behind allegedly false and defamatory online advertisements using the Tánaiste's name.

Mr Justice Mark Sanfey granted Padraic Lyons SC, instructed by solicitor Catherine Ardagh, permission to serve at short notice the proceedings on Google Ireland and its US parent Google LLC.


Mr Lyons said the relief sought was one requiring the defendants to provide information on the identities of those behind a number of false and deceptive website via the Google platform which allege very serious wrongdoing by Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence. The content of the adverts is vehemently denied, he said.

The ads have been removed by virtue of Google's egregious violations of Google ads policy but Google has said it requires a court order to divulge the information sought. Egregious violations are where ads are so serious that they are unlawful or pose significant harm to its users of its “digital advertising ecosystem”.

Mr Justice Sanfey said he had read the papers, and he noted Google had referred to egregious violations having been a feature of bad actors using the names of celebrities on adverts which entice users to click on them by using certain photos and text.

The judge, however, queried why it took three months between when the advertisements appeared and the application for an order against Google in circumstances where lawyers had come to court looking for short service of the proceedings as extremely urgent.


Given that Google had agreed they be taken down for violations, he thought the appropriate course would have been to come before the court as soon as possible.

Mr Lyons said it was only on October 23rd that it was clarified that the proceedings needed to be brought against both Google Ireland and Google LLC.

In the intervening period papers were prepared and sent to Mr Martin who had an unusually heavy series of engagements abroad in November, including China, the Middle East, Brussels and Luxembourg as well as a two-day conference of the Irish and British Council here.

This was on top of his normal heavy burden of work here, counsel said.


Throughout the entire period, it was not that nothing was being, he said. The Martin side went to great lengths to ensure very single detail in the affidavit sworn by Mr Martin was correct given the underlying issues from a personal and political policy aspect which warranted close attention, counsel said.

This was why it could not be done in November, he said. He also had every reason to believe there would be "constructive engagement" with Google which will mean not much court time will be required when it comes to seeking the orders.

Mr Justice Sanfey said he concurred that the categorisation of the conduct of those who placed the advertisements was egregious, and it is a matter that required to be addressed urgently.

He also noted that the orders sought by Mr Martin included account details of those behind the adverts which he said was not the typical type of information sought in these identification orders. Mr Lyons said there were previous judgments which dealt with the "essential flexibility" of the orders.


The judge said while he was giving a return date of December 14th, if there were points of contention between Mr Martin and Google, he would not be in a position to give an early hearing date to deal with those points.

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