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online abuse Autism campaigner suing Twitter and two users after being called 'rapist'

The tweets are understood to relate to a conversation Ms. O’Leary had in relation to IVF

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Fiona O'Leary is an autism rights campaigner based in Co Cork

Fiona O'Leary is an autism rights campaigner based in Co Cork

Fiona O'Leary is an autism rights campaigner based in Co Cork

AN AUTISM campaigner and blogger is suing Twitter and two of the platform’s users for defamation after being labelled ‘a rapist’ on the social media platform.

Fiona O’Leary has initiated civil proceedings against the social media giant and the two Twitter users in the Circuit Court where damages can run to a maximum of €75,000.

Speaking with the Sunday World Ms. O’Leary said she had tried everything in terms of contacting Twitter to have the posts taken down to no avail.

“I have never sued anyone in my life,” she said. “But I cannot allow these allegations on a social media platform to remain there unchallenged.

“I believe in free speech, but this is not that.

“It is abuse and defamation.”

Ms. O’Leary’s case concerns a series of six tweets posted on the social media platform between March 14th of 2021 and January 3rd of 2022.

The tweets are understood to relate to a conversation Ms. O’Leary had in relation to difficulties she had conceiving a child with her husband Tim – and their use of IVF.

In the tweets, as well as being labelled a rapist, Ms. O’Leary was described as a ‘fantasist,’ ‘a pathological liar,’ ‘a bully of cancer sufferers,’ ‘a liar’ ‘a hypocrite,’ ‘a stalker’ and a ‘broodmare’ - defined in the legal papers as a ‘female horse useful only for producing offspring and should be viewed only as such by reasonable members of society.’

Tim O’Leary, who is supporting Fiona in her action against Twitter posted a video of himself lodging the papers at the offices of Cork Circuit Court this week.

In the video, he said: “We started court proceedings against Twitter and two other individuals for defaming her … and me and refusing to stop.

“It’s begun … wish us luck.”

In the papers filed before the Circuit Court, lawyers for Ms. O’Leary says the offending tweets in their natural and ordinary meaning meant and were understood to mean that: “the plaintiff (Ms. O’Leary) is a rapist and or guilty of the crime of rape contrary to criminal law.”

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Lawyers for Ms. O’Leary also state she reported the defamatory content to Twitter on November 8th and that Twitter acknowledged on November 30th in writing that it was aware of the content published on its platform.

But, Ms. O’Leary’s Indorsement of Claim continues, Twitter has so failed, neglected and refused to remove the defamatory content.

It is acknowledged in the legal papers that Twitter is ordinarily permitted to avail of the Hosting Defence.

But Ms. O’Leary’s lawyers argue that Twitter ‘became a liable and concurrent publisher of the content on receipt and review of the publications complained of on November 8th.

The papers continue Ms. O’Leary “is an individual who values and strongly believes in her constitutional rights and her good name.”

They state that the individuals who wrote the tweets did so in order that Ms. O’Leary would be ‘denied the right to her good name and to create an air of confusion over her online activities.”

The papers state that neither of the individuals made any effort to delete the content they posted when informed the tweets represented defamatory material.

Mr. O’Leary, the papers continue, is now seeking ‘exemplary damages on the basis that the defamatory statements stated that (she) was guilty of serious criminal offences in the full knowledge that the publications were wrong and defamatory.”

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