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Trolling victim wins case against Facebook

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The word “troll” has been adopted to identify individuals who post inflammatory comments on online discussion forums, chat rooms or blogs with the primary aim of provoking an emotional response from readers. Most of us are now familiar with this term and aware that messages posted by trolls are sometimes malicious and can lead to the bullying and harassment of innocent individuals.

There have been recent cases where the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have brought trolls before the courts. One of the most publicised cases concerned a student from south Wales who was jailed for 56 days for mocking footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed with a heart attack.

What happens if you become subject to abuse by a troll and the police or the CPS fail to take action? Can you identify a troll who is tormenting you anonymously and pursue a claim against them yourself? A recent case has shown that it is possible for individuals to force social network sites to disclose the identities of trolls.

The case involved Nicola Brookes, a 45 year old mum who faced “vicious and depraved” abuse on Facebook after she posted a comment supporting former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza when he left the show last year. Ms Brookes won a landmark legal case against Facebook forcing them to hand over details of those who made the comments against her. She now hopes to pursue private prosecutions against those that abused her online despite the harassment against her escalating since her victory.

The ruling in favour of Ms Brookes is very welcome in a world where cyber bullying has become the “weapon of choice” amongst children and young people and, if Ms Brookes is successful in bringing those that have harassed her to justice, it should hopefully serve as a deterrent to other trolls. However, given the huge numbers of people that are being bullied online on a daily basis, we need more than one brave mother tackling these individuals. As the police do not have the resources to deal with the problem effectively, more responsibility needs to be placed on the operators of social network sites to take action against trolls.