A UK woman is taking Facebook to court in an attempt to uncover the identities of anonymous users who attacked her on the social network, the Telegraph reports.
The real case for Nicola Brookes, a 45-year-old Brighton resident is not against Facebook itself. If Facebook is made to comply, in what could be a first case of its kind in the UK, she intends to use that information to prosecute users who created a fake profile in her name.
Brookes found herself the subject of abuse, was accused of being a pedophile, and even had death threats directed at her on Facebook after leaving a supportive comment on an X Factor singer’s page.
“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,” Brookes told The Telegraph.
Matters escalated to the point of a fake profile being created in Brookes’ name, with explicit messages sent to young girls.
In addition to bringing the case to court, Brookes has also reported the case to the police, but they have yet to take any action. “A criminal offence has been committed and the police should be involved hunting down these perpetrators, but no such assistance is provided,” she said.
Brookes’ lawyers have called out the police for targeting trolling cases only when a personality in the public eye is involved, but for their part, they have defended their position, with a Sussex Police spokesman saying that it is often difficult to trace anonymous activity back to the perpetrator.
While in the past, Twitter users have been brought to court for racist or misogynistic comments, targeting anonymous users would certainly make Brookes’ case a landmark one in the UK, and if successful, it could have lasting effects on social media use in the country.
A similar case was brought to court in the US, ending with a Texan couple being awarded $14 million in damages, after they were subjected to abusive comments posted on the social forum, Topix.com. The historical case has, unsurprisingly, had little or no effect on curbing anonymous trolling.
Another first was recently witnessed in the UK, when a judge ruled that defendants can be summoned to court via Facebook. If Brookes’ own landmark case is successful, could we be entering an era of Facebook users being served on the social network for their online conduct?