A convicted child rapist in North Ireland is suing both Facebook and a Facebook page administrator, claiming that the administrator posted his exact address to a paedophile-monitoring page.
The administrator of the page, “Keeping our kids safe from predators II”, is Joe McCloskey.
That site seems to have been abandoned, but a similarly named site, “Keeping our kids safe from predators 2“, as of Friday seemed to be picking up where the other page left off.
McCloskey admitted in High Court to “naming and shaming” 400 sex offenders on the Facebook page.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, as of Thursday the High Court was seeking un-redacted versions of evidence to get to the bottom of what, exactly, the Facebook vigilante posted.
The plaintiff can’t be identified.
He’s claiming misuse of private information, harassment and breaches of the data protection act.
He filed charges after his photograph and details appeared last year on the Facebook page, alleging that among the wrathful comments posted to the page were calls for violence against him and inquiries about his address.
The court heard that one commenter called for the man to be hung, while others wanted to see him shot.
The man told the court he was then threatened with being thrown off a pier during a fishing trip, hounded out of a cinema, and had to use a supermarket trolley to fight off another tormentor.
Beyond the 400 sex offenders McCloskey says he’s named and shamed on the site, he told the court that he’s also helped to secure seven convictions.
But no, he said, he’s not responsible for instigating mob violence, pointing out that the page includes a disclaimer that opposes violence or intimidation.
McCloskey also claimed that he would remove sex offenders’ exact addresses if any user posted such details.
A Google search disproves that assertion, the plaintiff’s lawyers said.
Their evidence included postings on a website for sex offenders that were attributed to McCloskey.
In one of those postings, which were redacted, he comments on a rapist “living in flats near…”.
The judge said that it was possible to infer from the blanked-out comment that the defendant does, in fact, provide addresses.
One of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Peter Girvan, also pointed to references to hammers in the comments, contrary to McCloskey’s insistence that he never incited violence.
As of Thursday, the hearing was continued, as McCloskey’s attorney confirmed that he’ll seek un-redacted versions of the evidence.
There’s a lot going on with this case.
It’s about whether convicted child abusers should be publicly outed. It’s about keeping communities safe from those known to be dangerous to children.
And it is most certainly about the practice of online vigilantism.
It brings to mind Anonymous, its splinter groups, and the hacktivist fondness for posting addresses and other personal details of people they’ve deemed responsible for wrongs, such as George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin…
…or perhaps those only tangentially related to wrongs.