Internet trolling has become an epidemic. After the conviction of Sean Duffy I was hopeful that his prosecution and conviction will deter others from harassing innocent members of the public on the internet.
Unfortunately I was wrong. It will be difficult to argue that the conviction of Sean Duffy has made a significant impact on the numbers of internet trolling in the UK. In fact, what we are experiencing in the past 5 months since the conviction is an intensification of the problem.
As an harassment lawyer, I believe (and unfortunately my belief is supported by strong evidence) that the criminal justice system is not equipped to deal with cases of online harassment mainly due to the lack of resources. We have evidence to indicate that some police forces, may even have a policy of sending individuals who complain about internet trolling home, without even registering their complaint in the books, let alone conducting any sort of investigation.
“The only long term solution to the problem of internet trolling is for the government to establish a body with judicial powers to make it easier and cheaper for individuals to have the identity of their trolls revealed to them.”
Increasing sentences or giving police more powers without first dramatically increasing their budget to enable them to deal with this whole new area of policing would be a waste of an opportunity.
What we need to do is to make internet trolling socially unacceptable. At the moment internet trolling is a past time for many, otherwise decent, people. It gives bored individuals something to do and it is no longer part of a sub-culture. There is sufficient legislation in place and the bottle neck is clearly at the point where identities need to be revealed and not at the Magistrates’ Court.
The only long term solution is for the government to establish a body with some judicial powers to make it easier and cheaper for individuals to have the identity of their trolls revealed to them. This in effect, will make anonymous posters think twice before engaging in any such criminal activity and will bring back accountability to the system.
remember to watch (particularly if you have children)!
BBC’s Inside Out programme has investigated the latest rise in internet trolling. Watch it on Monday 06/02/2012 at 19:30 on BBC1 (London) or on BBC I player.
By Yair Cohen
Very often victims of online harassment, online intimidation and online defamation feel hopeless and powerless to act. They feel scared and paralysed with a growing number victims seriously considering suicide.
Read more: Courts are failing harassment victims
A women whose career as a marketing consultant was ruined by a man she met in 2004 who continually harassed her online and offline has finally won an injunction and damages.
Read more: The longest harassment case in the UK
On Monday 23 January 2012, a High Court Judge in London ordered INTERNET giant Google Inc. to disclose to a UK claimant, data and personal details which it holds in relation to a user who utilised Google’s Blogger to spread defamation against a UK based businessman.
Google was told to have information, which includes the blog owner’s user name, email address and IP address disclosed to Yair Cohen previously the boss of Bains Cohen who was acting for the claimant, who is fighting for defamatory content about him to be removed from the American based Blog.
Google will also need to supply information about the Gmail account associated with the creator of the Blog as well as other data which will help identify the anonymous user.
A further order to have a Claim Form against Google Inc. served outside the jurisdiction was also granted by the Judge, opening the possibility for a future injunctive claim against Google, as a party to defamation proceedings in the UK.
It is believed that this is the first time that such an order was granted by a UK court in relation to defamation proceedings concerning a UK based victim .
Google had 21 days to comply with the order.
Yair Cohen, the lawyer representing the Claimant, said: “This ruling may signal the beginning of a shift in the behaviour of internet users who can no longer be allowed to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. I am confident that we will now achieve the removal of the defamatory blog from Google’s Blogger.”
The Internet Law Centre for business