UK court requires Facebook to hand over troll identities

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


Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Is Bullying Harrasment or fFeedom of Speech?

    I think that FB cooperation is instrumental to combating bullying.

    It sends a message to the bully's. But the question is, "What constitutes bullying" and "what constitutes freedom of speech and truth" ?

    Maybe its all about executing the difference of exercising an opinion and exercising multiple opinions of varying degrees?
    • In UK

      Do they have something giving the right of free speach in the UK?
      • @TGGR


        Article 19.

        Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
        Neville Devil
  • Very easy way to not be involved in online bullying...

    ...DON'T USE these asinine social networking sites like Farcebook.
    • Facebook Twitter et al

      I have to gree, these sites are a waste of time and space. Have you noticed how slow pages with links to these sites load!!!!
    • @IT_Fella

      You have it down to a T.
      Neville Devil
  • Don't be anonymous

    Freedom comes with responsibility, and conversely the more responsible you are the more freedom you will have. In real life you only get to be a jerk as long as you are bigger than the person/ their boyfriend/ or there are no cops around. Well the truth is even when you think you are anonymous you are not, so don't say things on the internet that you would be unwilling to take responsibility for.
    • @littlemas2

      Freedom is a choice. Responsibility does not afford you any more freedom than being irresponsible. In real life, plenty of nasty little weasels get away with being "jerks", frequently the law protects them.

      My guess is you aren't really tech minded.

      It's easy to be anonymous online, especially for anyone up to no good. You can make your ip untraceable, spoof a mac address,create email accounts in false names and use false IDs if asked for them.

      If you are not relatively anonymous, you are a sitting duck.

      But you can still be anonymous and take responsibility for what you say.

      Some of the nastiest people I've ever encountered use their real names and they only calm down when I've told them where they work, what their job title is and where they live. They realise that they are mouthing off to me from the comfort of their keyboard but I know far more about them than they know about me.

      Sometimes I send them a seasonal card.
      Neville Devil
  • Must be more to it

    "There must be more here than meets the eye."

    Obviously, I don't know the details, but the idea that SEVERAL people would randomly attack one person, even following her to other sites, is ludicrous.
    • @Rick_R

      It's not at all uncommon for stalkers to start looking up all your details and other accounts on line and stalking you across different sites. This is why you use different IDs.

      On social networks, the pack mentality happens quickly.

      It only usually starts when somebody is unfairly nasty, then lots of people all disagreeing with them band together. But when kids start on somebody over something trivial they are quickly out of control.
      Neville Devil
  • Aloha, they are not trolls, they are bullies.

    Government is wasting time and money. Half of these bullies are under 14 years old and are exactly what the country has raised them to be. Kids call anybody a pedo these days as it's just the same as calling somebody a weirdo to them.

    Anybody can hack a facebook account, anybody can start an email account and fb account from a public use wifi or crack somebody elses. Anybody can post on fb anonymously from a spoofed IP address. They can even use a virtual machine to destroy any evidence.

    But this opens up a new debate...about fame, being in the public eye and whether most of us really want it.

    There are horrible people everywhere and when you get mass exposure by being on tv, millions more people will form an opinion of you, be it right or wrong. So you have to be prepared for the love/hate responses that celebrities have always had to put up with.

    That includes stalkers, creeps, weirdos, unwanted admirers, opponents, negative press etc.

    Really this problem stems from the tabloids who created the sneering gossip culture. We see it everyday.

    Then there is the other debate, Nicola Brooks would never have got so personally attacked if all her real details weren't exposed. If she used a pseudonym like most websites allow, she could just shut down one account and start another in a different name.

    But really this is an age old issue in a new form. You have to learn to keep your guard up and be careful who you let inside...and who you let know details about you. Strolling along on FB amongst the supporters of junk culture tv will always get you grief just for stating an opinion. Spiteful behaviour is out of control in schools, in work places (and it's largely managers and buddies responsible) and out on the street.

    Now real trolls would have trolled the bullies because they are funny to troll....because bullies are already close to hysteria and are asking to be ridiculed. I regularly troll online bullies and they regularly report me for upsetting them.
    Neville Devil