The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

Internet law: Woman abused on Facebook launches landmark legal action

A woman who was abused on the social-network site Facebook has launched a landmark legal action against her tormentors in a case which could have wide ramifications for online conduct.

Nicola Brookes is taking legal action against Facebook to reveal the details of those who posted abuse on their site by setting up a fake profile using her name and details and using the rogue site to send explicit messages to underage girls, prompting taunts that she was a paedophile.

If successful, she has said that she will use the information to launch a private prosecution against her online tormentors, referred to in computer jargon as 'trolls'.

Ms Brookes who lives in Brighton had looked at a Facebook page dedicated to shamed X-Factor star Frankie Cocozza. Mr Cocozza was himself subject to online taunts, and Ms Brookes posted a message of support on his page, partially motivated by her daughter who is a fan of the show and of the singer.

"Keep your chin up, Frankie, they'll move onto someone else soon," she wrote, prophetically.

Within hours Facebook users were targeting Ms Brookes, commenting on her post that she was a paedophile and stating that they wished she was dead.

"I was getting hundreds of these alerts so I couldn't even ignore it or blank it out. It was like a form of torture," she said.

Ms Brookes reveals that the comments soon became more malicious, as trolls targeted her personal page, commenting on her age, her looks, and the fact that she suffers with the inflammatory bowel condition, Crohn's disease.

"They started getting very personal, looking at my Facebook account, and talking about my appearance, my age and my illness. I hadn't invited any of it, but they ganged together and started inciting a sort of public hatred of me," she added.

Latterly the trolls used images of Ms Brookes and personal information from her page to set up a 'fake' account, before posting sexually provocative messages onto the pages of girls, one as young as nine.

In response Ms Brookes has instructed lawyers to bring a High Court action against Facebook, to order them to reveal the IP Addresses of those involved in perpetrating the abuse. This information can then be used to locate the abusers who could then face private prosecution.

Rupinder Bains is a partner at Bains Cohen, the firm bringing the action on behalf of Ms Brookes.

"A criminal offence has been committed and the police should be involved hunting down these perpetrators, but no such assistance is provided," she said.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Telegraph)

Internet and email bullying (FindLaw)