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Order Granted against Google to disclose identity of online “troll” accused of defaming Portakabin company

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By Lisa Broderick & Rowena McCormack


Published 29 July 2021


Earlier this month, following an application by Portakabin (a modular building company) the High Court granted an Order compelling Google to disclose the details of a subscriber email account which was allegedly spreading defamatory information about the company. The account in question was allegedly sending emails containing false and damaging material about Portakabin’s products and services to the company’s customer base.

The Order granted by the Court (which was unopposed by Google) requires it to provide Portakabin with information such as the email account holder’s credit card details and the IP address and time stamps associated with the account.

The Order in question, known as a “Norwich Pharmacal” Order, has become a pivotal tool in litigation in recent years in order to identify the appropriate defendant to a legal action, particularly in internet defamation cases, where perpetrators often hide behind a shroud of anonymity. Norwich Pharmacal applications are usually made without notice to the alleged wrongdoer meaning the alleged wrongdoer is not heard by the Court.

In order to secure a Norwich Pharmacal Order, the applicant must prove i) a strong prima facie case that a wrong has been committed, ii) the disclosure of information or documents from the third party (in the current case, Google) is required in order to enable action against the defendant, iii) the third party is sufficiently involved in the wrongdoing so as to have facilitated it (even innocently), is the only practicable source for, and is in a position to provide, the required information/documents and iv) the Order is necessary in the interests of justice.

In granting the Order, the Court said that it was satisfied that Portakabin had made out a sufficient case and that the emails from the anonymous account were defamatory and “calculated to damage [Portakabin’s] business and their relationships with their customers”. A copy of the full judgment is available here.