A Belfast law firm is demanding that Twitter provide details of users of anonymous accounts allegedly linked to former Sunday Independent columnists Eoghan Harris.
KRW Law represents two people who have been the target of negative messages from the accounts, reporter Paul Larkin and Professor Colin Harvey of Queens University.
Mr Harris was revealed last week as one of the operators of the ‘Barbara Pym’ account and has therefore been removed from his role as a columnist for the Sunday Independent. Much of the story’s content was aimed at Sinn FÃ©in and nationalists, as well as journalists whom he did not consider critical of the party.
Sunday Independent editor-in-chief Alan English said the material published went beyond fair and reasonable commentary and was a “betrayal of trust.”
At least nine other accounts were also suspended after Twitter said they were logged into the Pym account. These include accounts in the name of “Whig Northern” and “Dolly White”.
KRW contacted Twitter last month and asked them to reveal the identities of the users of the Pym account. This followed a tweet from the account which described an article by Mr. Larkin in the Irish Times as “provo-sectarian poison”.
KRW’s attorney, Niall Murphy, said on Monday that the company renewed its requests to the social media giant after confirming that the account was used by Mr Harris.
Mr. Murphy said KRW was looking for “name (s), address (es), phone number (s), IP address (es), technical metadata such as user agent strings, and any other information that will identify or help identify the person or persons responsible for creating / registering the Twitter profile of Barbara J Pym, Northern Whig and Dolly White. He said he was looking for those details “for the purposes of litigation.”
âAs the data controller of the social networking platform Twitter in Ireland and the UK, Twitter has obligations to our customers with respect to the posting of defamatory material by its users,â he said. -he declares.
“We are therefore working to identify the person (s) behind these Twitter accounts in order to mitigate the damage that has already been caused, and could occur in the future, to our customers and to their reputation.”
Mr Harris said he ran the Pym account along with five or six others, which he declined to name. He denied managing other accounts and said the tweets sent from the Pym account were political and not abusive.
KRW has indicated that it will go to the High Court if Twitter does not pass on user data. If this happens, he will have to apply for a âNorwich Pharmacal Orderâ, a legal order that can force third parties to disclose relevant data such as IP addresses. This can reveal the real names of the users of the accounts before any libel action takes place.
Over the weekend, Garda confirmed it was investigating allegations of online harassment of a female journalist from some of the now suspended accounts. Investigations are at an early stage.