Trollism is a very real problem on the web, and Facebook just took part in a landmark case to shed light on the identities of trolls who do real harm.
A 45-year-old woman named Nicola Brookes (pictured above) brought the case against a group of individuals who tormented her for months, creating fake profiles using her picture and even sending death threats.
She originally brought her complaint to police but was reportedly ignored by law enforcement, Brookes told the Daily Mail. Instead, Brookes went to court, obtaining an order for Facebook to reveal the identities of her abusers. This would enable her to take those individuals to court for their harassment.
Ironically, Brookes’ ordeal began when she defended another victim of trollism. She posted a supportive message on her own Facebook wall, encouraging the other person to “keep [his] chin up… They’ll move onto someone else soon.” Apparently, that “someone else” was Brookes, who received more than 100 violent and disturbing messages over the next 24 hours.
Some of the messages accused Brookes of pedophilia. When her image was used to create a fake profile, the person behind the fake profile began using it to send inappropriate messages to girls as young as 9 years old.
In most states in the U.S., online harassment is already a serious offense that can lead to jail time, and social media companies stateside already do a fair amount of compliance with official requests for user information, especially when those requests are routed through the courts or law enforcement.
Facebook in particular has been working very diligently over the past couple years to raise awareness around bullying. A Facebook spokesperson said, “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 such people are brought to justice.”