The Defendants were a local newspaper publisher and its directors. The Claimant was a local businessman who had brought four claims alleging (in the main) libel and malicious falsehood in respect of articles published in the newspaper and statements on a Facebook Page (“the Page”).
The Page was not operated by any of the Defendants, but the Claimant contended that two of the Defendants were or became liable for its content due to their operation of their own Facebook pages, in particular because they had “Liked” the Page. The Claimant contended that, by “Liking” the Page, they became liable as publishers of defamatory content on it because they provided hyperlinks to that page on their own Facebook pages and continued to do so after he had sent “cease and desist” emails. The Defendants’ evidence was that, although they had “Liked” the Page as a whole, they had not personally authored any content on it, nor “Liked” or otherwise endorsed any of the posts containing the words complained of.
As set out in Caine v Advertiser and Times Ltd v Curry (No. 1)  EWHC 39 (QB) [Bailii link in ‘Links’ section below], Claim 1, in respect of a newspaper article, had been stayed permanently due to late service of the claim form and particulars of claim, and two applications by the Claimant had been declared “totally without merit”. Claim 2 had arisen from statements on the Facebook Page and had been struck out and declared “totally without merit”, and the Claimant’s application to re-open his appeal had been declared “wholly without merit”. The Claimant had then issued Claim 3 in respect of materially the same Facebook statements as in Claim 2.
The Defendants applied inter alia to stay or strike out Claim 3 as an abuse of process and sought a finding that Claim 3 was also “totally or wholly without merit”. They also applied for an Extended Civil Restraint Order (“ECRO”) preventing the Claimant from issuing claims or making applications in the High Court or the County Court concerning any matter involving or relating to or touching upon or leading to the proceedings in Claims 1, 2 or 3 without first obtaining the permission of a judge identified in the order. By the time of the hearing, the Claimant had also issued Claim 4.