Richardson v Facebook - identifying the defendant in defamation claims

Richardson v Facebook  - identifying the defendant in defamation claims

Felicity McMahon, a barrister at 5RB, considers the decision in Richardson v Facebook; Richardson v Google (UK) Ltd., a case which highlights the importance of identifying the correct entity to bring actions against in defamation claims.

What is the background to the claimant’s actions against Facebook and Google?

The claimant brought the action in relation to a Facebook profile and a blogpost on Google’s Blogger service. Both were purportedly by the claimant, but in fact were created by an imposter. The claimant alleged both were defamatory and infringed her right to resect for privacy under art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Both posts were taken down after the claimant alerted the companies. The claimant’s actions were brought against ‘Facebook’ and Google (UK) Ltd.

The Master had dismissed both claims on the principal ground that the claimant had a sued or attempted to sue a company that was not responsible for the publication complained of. The claimant appealed.

On what basis was the claimant seeking a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)?

The claimant sought a reference to the CJEU on two grounds, both of which were rejected by the judge.

First, for an authoritative interpretation of Google Spain SL and another company v Agencia Espanola de proteccion de Datos (AEPD) and another: C-131/12 [2014] All ER (D) 124 (May), a data protection case, the reasoning of which in relation to liability the claimant sought to argue should apply to defamation and privacy cases.

Second, for the CJEU to determine whether the defendants were ‘hybrid public authorities’ pursuant to ECHR, art 8.

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