UK court requires Facebook to hand over troll identities

Summary:Facebook is being forced to hand over the identities of cyberbullies who allegedly targeted a woman for supporting an X Factor contestant.

In the first case of its kind in the United Kingdom, a woman has won the approval of courts to force social networking giant to reveal the identities of cyberbullies who allegedly incited a hate campaign against her.

Set up a fake account, choose your target and strike -- it's not difficult to demonstrate the kind of behaviour that would get you arrested or retaliated against in the physical world -- and simply do it under the guise of an anonymous online persona.

However, things may be about to change.

Nicola Brooks, 45, posted a comment of support for X Factor singer Frankie Cocozza on a Facebook page, nothing more. Before she knew it, other users of Facebook began commenting about her looks, age and an illness she suffers from -- going as far as to call her a paedophile and drug dealer, according to reports.

"People were inciting hatred against me. They weren't just targeting me, they were also dragging young girls into it as well," she said.

The cyberbullies in question used fake profiles to target her in order to avoid detection. However UK courts have now decreed that Facebook must hand over the names, email addresses and IP signatures of those in question -- so she has the ability to bring private prosecution to the case.

Brooke said:

"I want them exposed. They exposed me and they invaded my life. I didn't ask for it. They wanted a reaction from me and now they have got it."

They certainly have. Facebook, in turn, has indicated it will go along with the courts' decision, telling the BBC that there is "no place for harassment on the site".

Brooks plans to bring a case against at least four of the alleged Internet trolls who targeted her on Facebook. However, the abuse didn't stop there. According to her solicitor, the alleged trolls also published her address and followed her on to other forums to continue the harassment.

Facebook said in a statement:

"There is no place for harassment on Facebook, but unfortunately a small minority of malicious individuals exist online, just as they do offline. We respect our legal obligations and work with law enforcement to ensure that such people are brought to justice."

Image credit: C.Osborne

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Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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