Google required to give details to Tánaiste of those behind false ads

Google Required To Give Details To Tánaiste Of Those Behind False Ads
The orders require Google to provide information including the names, email addresses, and telephone numbers relating to the accounts associated with relevant adverts. Photo: PA
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Ann O'Loughlin

Tech giant Google must give details to Tánaiste Micheal Martin about those behind false ads linking him to a cryptocurrency scam.

The move comes after the Fianna Fáil leader resolved High Court proceedings against Google where he sought to compel it to hand over the information which would either directly or indirectly help him identify the persons or companies ultimately responsible for the display and publication of the advertisements.


Last week Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs was given permission by the court to bring proceedings against Google Ireland Ltd and it parent Google LLC in which he sought the identity of those behind the ads.

The adverts Mr Martin in an earlier affidavit to the court said were published on prominent websites last July and contained statements which he said would injure his reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.

The matter returned before the High Court on Thursday when Padraic Lyons SC said following discussions between the parties, an agreement had been reached.

The court could make a series of orders in favour of Mr Martin, to which Google was not objecting, counsel said.


The orders require Google to provide information including the names, email addresses, and telephone numbers relating to the accounts associated with relevant adverts.

Google must also prove details it has of any financial accounts or services used to pay the internet company or the publication of the adverts and details of any IP addresses from which the accounts were accessed in order to procure the publication of the adverts.

The information is to be provided to Mr Martin within 21 days.

Counsel said that Google, in accordance with its usual notice policies, may inform the owners of the accounts that placed the ads in advance of its intention to disclose the information to Mr Martin.


Mr Martin acknowledges Google will not be liable for any subscriber information provided that turns out to be false, incorrect or misleading due to the fault of the relevant account holders, counsel said.

Mr Martin also agrees that if any of the information disclosed contains personal data, it will be held in accordance with all applicable data protection laws.

Counsel aid that the motion and the proceedings could be struck out, with no order as to costs.

Counsel said that both sides have liberty to return to the court in respect of the orders, should the need arise.


Eileen Barrington SC for Google said her side was neither objecting nor consenting to the orders being made by the courts.

The matter was before Mr Justice Mark Sanfey who welcomed the settlement of the action and said that the form of orders that the court had been asked to make were appropriate in the circumstances.

The judge after granting the orders formally struck out the action.

Last week, the High Court heard that since a complaint was made to Google the ads have been taken down and the advertiser’s accounts suspended under the platform’s “egregious policy violations”.


Google has told Mr Martin’s lawyers such ads are part of a "global trend" of "scammy bad actors trying to deceive users by enticing them to click into an ad by using popular figures/celebrities along with provocative text or content".

Google also said it could not under law produce user/customer data to a third party, irrespective of their circumstances, without a court order that it do so.

In his sworn statement to the court,  Mr Martin  said  he was  most disquieted at the apparent increase in the online publication of disinformation and deceptive material relating to public and political figures in the State.”

“While I'm very concerned at the specific reputational damage caused to me by the relevant advertisements, I also have a broader concern that publication of misleading online content relating to politicians by anonymous persons whether prompted by nefarious political or financial motives, has the potential to erode trust in the political system and to disrupt and disfigure public life in the State,” he said.

He said the false association may have caused “or certainly had the potential to cause significant damage to his public goodwill and reputation as a public representative.”

He said there is a strong public interest in facilitating his attempts “to identify the wrongdoers and to hold them legally responsible for the creation and publication of  the deliberately misleading material.”

Such a court order, he said, would also deter “further attempts at spreading online misinformation by persons who believe that their anonymity provides them with immunity from legal consequences.”

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