Denis O’Brien lodges proceedings against Meta over ‘fake ads’ hosted on social media site

Move comes two years after Miriam O’Callaghan settled case with same company over defamatory adverts posted on platform

03/05/2013 - NEWS -   Denis O Brien speaking at the Front line Defendersin City Hall .
Photo: David Sleator/THE IRISH TIMES
Stock, General View, GV, Web
Denis O’Brien has lodged court proceedings against Meta Platforms Ireland arising from what is understood to be 'fake ads' hosted on the social media site. Photograph: David Sleator

The wealthy Irish businessman, Denis O’Brien, has lodged High Court proceedings against Meta Platforms Ireland, formerly Facebook Ireland, arising from what are understood to be “fake ads” hosted on the social media site.

The lodgement of the proceedings comes two years after broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan settled a case with the same company over several defamatory and untrue adverts that were posted on the platform concerning her.

As part of that settlement, Ms O’Callaghan received an unreserved apology over the use of her name and image. The Irish subsidiary of the global corporation said at the time it was to establish an additional scam ad reporting tool that would allow Irish users to submit reports on misleading adverts to a specialist team within Facebook for review.

In December last, Tánaiste Micheál Martin resolved High Court proceedings he brought against Google where he was seeking information about those behind fake advertisements containing allegedly defamatory material.


The ads were appearing on legitimate websites – including The Irish Times – and contained links to “pseudo-newspaper articles” associating him with a cryptocurrency scam.

Orders were made by the court, without objection from Google, requiring the multinational to provide information to Mr Martin, including the names, email addresses and telephone numbers associated with the adverts. The corporation also had to provide details of any financial accounts or services used to pay for the publication of the adverts, and any IP addresses used to procure the publication of the fake adverts.

The court was told Google had taken down the ads and suspended the advertiser’s account due to “egregious policy violations” and that Mr Martin’s lawyers had been told the ads were part of a global trend of “scammy bad actors” trying to deceive users by enticing them to click on an ad by using popular figures/celebrities along with provocative text or content.

In taking the case, Mr Martin said two display ads had appeared in July 2023 on websites of The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and Done Deal.

Social media platforms have sought to dispute their responsibility for defamatory material on the basis that they are not publishers.

A spokesman for Mr O’Brien said he would not be commenting on the lodgement of proceedings.

A Meta spokeswoman said it had no comment.

In December, Meta “unreservedly and sincerely” apologised to wealthy UK-based Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana in the High Court in Dublin over the publication of “fake ads” on the social media platform by third parties using his name and image.

The apology formed part of the settlement of the businessman’s legal action against Meta over the adverts which, he claimed, were published by people unknown to him using the Facebook Ads Tool.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent