Two Union Flag protestors who allegedly fled their homes after being threatened online are suing Facebook, it emerged yesterday.
Lawyers for the men, who cannot be identified, have already secured the removal of pages referring to their activities.
But a High Court judge yesterday refused to impose a further interim injunction requiring the social media giant to monitor for any future reference to the pair.
Mr Justice Gillen said it would mean going beyond all previous orders against Facebook and could potentially lead to its shutdown.
He told lawyers for the men: “My concern is that (with) this monitoring you are pushing the court at this stage to a level that no court has yet gone.
“You are taking it to an area where Facebook may have to close down if they have to monitor all one billion of their users. I’m not sure how they could do that.”
The men, who lived near sectarian flashpoints in north Belfast, are seeking damages from the company over comments posted in connection with their involvement in protests about the restricted flying of the Union Flag at City Hall. One of them was threatened with being shot and also allegedly told in the street he would be kicked to death, according to their case.
His legal team claim this verbal warning can be linked to Facebook because reference was made to the name he used on the site.
In a case pitching rights to life, privacy and freedom from torture and degrading treatment against freedom of expression, barrister David Heraghty argued that the risks were real.
But Peter Hopkins, for Facebook, argued that the application was vague and amounted to trying to stop its one billion worldwide users from referring to the same names as the two men.
The judge listed their full action against Facebook for a hearing in January.