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June 1, 2012

Disclosure order against internet trolling

Categories: Harassment, News

Tags: disclosure, Harassment, Norwich Pharmacal, online publication

Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction used against social media site


A woman from Brighton has secured a disclosure order against Facebook in relation to a persistent internet “troll” campaign against her.

Nicola Brookes became inexplicably subjected to wide-ranging internet harassment after she wrote a message on a Facebook fan site. Forms of harassment included alleging her to be a child abuser, following her around various internet sites, posting her address and inviting internet users to visit her, and creating a fake profile in her name on Facebook which was used to send inappropriate messages to children. This kind of phenomenon, which is increasingly common on social media internet sites, has become known as “trolling.” Pseudonyms are usually used by “trolls.”

In Miss Brookes case the police were not prepared to get involved in the case, so she turned to civil law and private prosecution remedies.

Miss Brookes had no means of discovering the real identities of the individuals who had caused her so much distress other than by making an application against Facebook for disclosure of any information which would allow her harassers to be identified and action taken against them, either in the civil or criminal courts. Facebook through its lawyers in California took the position that it would endeavour to comply with any court order for disclosure that Miss Brookes obtained in the UK. The Norwich Pharmacal jurisdiction allows disclosure from a third party who has inadvertently facilitated an actionable wrong, and is frequently employed to obtain registration and other identity details from ISPs, telecomms companies and websites, in the UK and beyond.

The case has fed into discussion around the new Defamation Bill which is currently before Parliament as to the available recourse of individuals to redress of internet abuse, harassment and cyber-bullying.

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David Hirst instructed by Bains Cohen LLP obtained the disclosure order in this case.