In the first case of its kind in the UK, Nicola Brookes has won the right to uncover the identities of trolls that have been harassing her around the Web.

In a High Court order, Facebook is now to reveal the IP addresses of the people involved in abusing her. According to a comment on the BBC, Facebook has said ‘there is no place for harassment on the site’.

As we have reported in the past, the abuse targeted at Brookes was personal and involved death threats.

The abuse started after Brookes posted a supportive comment on an X Factor singers page. She told the Telegraph, “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.”

According to BBC, the abuse was not limited to Facebook, and Brooks was pursued across other sites including recipe forums. The activity escalated to the level of a fake profile being created in Brookes’ name, with explicit messages sent to young girls.

Legal terms over borders

As pointed out in the Guardian, the order that Facebook will receive is known as a Norwich Pharmacal order. This is listed as having a jurisdiction in England and Wales.

Under an order of this type, a respondent must hand over documents or information to the applicant. The respondent must be associated with the wrong doing, whether innocently or not. The order will be physically served on Facebook in the United States and the company will comply when it does.

When the details are handed over, it will be up to Brookes to get a further court order to have the ISPs concerned reveal which people are associated with those addresses. Brookes has said that she is considering private prosecution against at least four people involved.

A spokesperson for Facebook added, “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.”

It is a lengthy process and the idea of anonymity on the Web is a double-edged sword. Though it may protect those who require shielding for many reasons, it also does not help those who deserve justice when they are the target of abusive campaigns.

It seems that Brookes has influenced the possibilities for future cases with this outcome, so there is some hope for others who feel they are being subjected to abuse.

Image Credit: jaqian