Irish Red Cross takes Google to court to identify blogger

27 Jul 2010

Ireland’s Red Cross has taken a High Court action against Google in California to obtain the identity of a blogger alleged to have posted inaccurate and damaging material about the charity on the internet.

The Irish Red Cross claims that material that was posted anonymously by the blogger wilfully distorted confidential material.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern gave the Irish Red Cross permission to name Google Incorporated, California, US, as a defendant in the action.

Irish Red Cross’ statement

“The Irish Red Cross welcomes the decision by the High Court to order UPC Communications Ireland Limited to disclose the identity of a person associated with a blog site which has posted internal confidential material about the Irish Red Cross, and which has willfully distorted and misconstrued this confidential material,” the charity said in a statement.

“The material has been posted ‘anonymously’. The Irish Red Cross does not propose to take any further action against UPC, and proceedings against that company will now be discontinued. The Irish Red Cross will continue to pursue the actual blogger or bloggers.

“The blog is facilitated by Google, and Google Ireland have advised us that they are not involved in the blog, as it is controlled by its parent company, Google Inc. in California. Accordingly today we obtained an Order permitting the Irish Red Cross to substitute Google Inc. for Google Ireland Limited, and we obtained the necessary permission to serve Google Inc. in California, and we will now do so.

“Our purpose is to identify the blogger or bloggers, so that we can take appropriate action against him or her or them. Our action against Google is merely to identify the person who is posting the confidential and distorted material. The Irish Red Cross finds itself in a situation where confidential information as well as inaccurate and damaging comment and views on this blog has had a serious impact on staff morale, on fundraising, and on the day-to-day running of the organisation.

“Once we have identified the blogger/s, they can speak for themselves, and they will be given every opportunity to do so, and to justify their actions.”

Seeking fairness

The Irish Red Cross said it has no difficulty with Google or UPC; however it said that it is a matter of essential fairness that the identity of the blogger is put in the public domain.

“Our good work at home and around the world continues via our network of over 6,000 volunteers of all ages, and our extensive base of skilled delegates and staff. This is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Irish public who trust the reputation of the Irish Red Cross which has been built over 70 years in providing dedicated humanitarian service to those most vulnerable,” the organisation stated.

So far in 2010, the Irish Red Cross has raised more than €3m for the people of Haiti, funding which is going towards emergency relief, shelter and water and sanitation in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.  This is in addition to more than €1m which was distributed at the beginning of the year to more than 400 households around Ireland affected by the floods which struck in late 2009.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years