RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan issues defamation proceedings against Facebook

29 Jan 2019

From left: Sarah Jennings, Sky Ireland; Miriam O’Callaghan, RTÉ; and Aoife Byrne, RTÉ. Image: Colm Mahady/Fennell Photography

Miriam O’Callaghan to sue Facebook over fake advertisements.

Radio and television host Miriam O’Callaghan is to issue defamation proceedings against social media giant Facebook. She alleges that the platform is promoting fake ads including malicious stories about her to entice users into clicking on them.

The presenter has engaged the services of defamation specialist Paul Tweed.

False claims about erratic behaviour

O’Callaghan told The Sunday Times that she has been left with no option but to sue Facebook, due to its apparent failure to deal with fraudulent ads for face cream that have included false claims about “erratic behaviour” leading to her being fired from the national broadcaster.

Some of the ads were also designed to look like credible news articles and claimed O’Callaghan was a fan of the product and was considering leaving her broadcasting career to promote the anti-wrinkle cream.

The Prime Time presenter said that colleagues, friends and family members had been concerned about the content of the ads, including her young son. According to O’Callaghan, the advertiser is being facilitated by Facebook to use the sensationalised stories to garner clicks.

O’Callaghan said she and Tweed contacted the social media platform in June and, although she had received assurances that the content had been removed, the ads remain online. Speaking with Extra.ie, O’Callaghan said that despite the article in The Sunday Times, she has seen new ads appear on the platform.

“It’s just so unbelievable, upsetting and frustrating that they can keep defaming me like this. I have worked very, very hard over decades to build a good reputation, and Facebook think they can … allow and print endless defamatory ads,” O’Callaghan said.

Users who sign up to purchase the face cream pay €5 initially for postage and packaging, but their accounts are charged approximately €100 if the ‘sample’ is not returned in a short timeframe.

Facebook ad policy

Facebook’s advertising policy says most advertisements are reviewed within 24 hours, but this can take longer in some cases. Ads cannot contain deceptive, false, misleading content or offers.

A spokesperson for the platform said: “Adverts which are misleading, false or infringe on third-party rights are in violation of Facebook’s ads policies, and we remove them as soon as we become aware of them,” said the spokesperson.

“The ads that were reported to us by Miriam O’Callaghan have been removed and the relevant accounts disabled. We’re constantly working to detect and shut down this kind of ad activity using a combination of automated and manual systems.”

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects