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Nicola Brookes wins legal challenge against Facebook

33 comments

Jane Osmond
WVoN co-editor

On 21 May 2012 I wrote about how Nicola Brookes, a woman who posted a supportive comment on X-Factor Frankie Cocozza’s contestant page, received a barrage of online abuse from Facebook trolls.

The trolls, as well as publishing her address online on Mother’s Day this year, also set up a fake Facebook page in her name, which portrayed her as a paedophile and contained such comments as “I am a paedophile and I like underage girls and me and Frankie f**k them together”.

Incensed and upset by the failure of both the police and Facebook to take action over this, Nicola took her case to the High Court, and on 30 May was successful in obtaining a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO), which compels Facebook to hand over the details of those who have abused her online.

Although Facebook, as a US company does not have to comply, it has agreed to provide the details.

Speaking to Nicola the day after the order was granted, I asked her about her experience of this abuse, which began in November 2011 and continues to this day.

“I made a comment on Frankie Cocozza’s official ITV page and within hours my Facebook page was targeted and two days later a fake profile using my picture and name was set up.

“I used every option available to me, through the Facebook reporting system and reporting to the police, and both repeatedly failed me. Asking a law firm to step in and help was the only way I had left to get them to stop.

“Even now the trolls’ arrogance and confidence that they will not be found, exposed and held accountable is openly bragged about while still stalking me over the internet, taunting me, my legal team, my publicist, and anybody who comments or shows me support. I am still not able to use and speak on the internet freely.”

To its credit, not only did law firm Bains Cohen give Nicola legal advice, it offered to take her case pro bono.

Rupinder Bains, partner at Bains Cohen, who accompanied Nicola to the High Court on 30 May, commented: “Nicola’s case was so severe that we felt we had to help her. In comparison with famous people, for example an MP or a footballer, where online platforms tend to give up the information quite quickly, the resources don’t seem to be there for the general public and this is a disparity that we need to change.”

Although Nicola is pleased that the legal challenge has been successful, and is hopeful that the end result will be the prosecution of the people who have targeted her, the case has taken a heavy toll on her physical and emotional health.

Nicola suffers from Crohn’s disease and colitis, and, after surviving a serious operation in 2011, is now experiencing a flare up of both conditions due to stress.  Some of the comments referenced both her health and her appearance, and have hurt her deeply.

She is also upset by comments that she is trying to make money out of her ordeal: “I cannot pay the legal fees for my case because I cannot work due to my health issues.

“This does not mean that I am trying to make money out of what has happened to me: I just want this kind of online abuse to stop so everybody can use social networking sites safely and free from abuse.”

Meanwhile, over the last six months since her nightmare began, Nicola has become much more aware of the extent of online abuse. She has been contacted by other people with heart breaking stories who have had the same experience and, in some instances, been targeted by the same trolls.

Despite her health issues, Nicola is determined to see the case through. This is good news for the general public, particularly those with memorial pages for loved ones, who are routinely targeted.

Even as I write, Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington is suffering the same experience and has shut down her social networks while competing, and a member of the group CRINJ, Meredith Keeton, is trying to combat her own online abuse from an activist group called Rape is No Joke, by setting up her own page in rebuttal.

Rupinder comments: “Bullying and harassment is a crime and we don’t accept it in the workplace – we have also got to say that is not acceptable online – just because there is a veil of anonymity online it doesn’t mean it is any more acceptable. In the States there have been a number of suicides over these kind of issues and that is going to start happening here: we have to stop it before it gets to that stage”.

She also pointed out that many people, after trying the reporting mechanism on Facebook or going to the police and finding that little action is taken, do not realise what their legal options are. She advises reporting online abuse to the police as harassment of this type is a criminal offence.

‘This kind of online abuse is completely unacceptable and we need to put the groundwork in now – otherwise it will be very hard to rein in as too much damage will have been done. For me, this ruling is the start of this groundwork in that those who have hounded Nicola are about to be identified,” says Rupinder.

And, for those who are quickly deleting accounts, they should be aware that IP addresses can be tracked retrospectively even if the account has been deactivated. The days of the anonymous online abuser may be numbered at last.

You can show Nicola support on her Facebook page Trolls and Me.

Please watch this space for an outline of the legal position from Bains Cohen in the coming weeks.

NB: To clarify the use of the word ‘troll’: this has entered into the public lexicon and is generally understood to be an anonymous poster who either derails an online discussion by being provocative or who harasses and bullies people online.

  1. Liam Burrows says:

    This is excellent news. I am very, very pleased for Nicola and I look forward to seeing her get some justice. My guess is there will be a lot of anxious trolls out there tonight.

    • Cuthbert Bollingsworth-Smythe says:

      Just a small point – I haven’t actually been named so I wouldn’t get counting your chickens. Long long way to go yet. I wonder whether you’ll be as quick to post when it gets thrown out?

      • Liam Burrows says:

        Just a small point – you are the first person in this thread to name yourself, Cuthbert. Guilty conscience?

        Just a couple of weeks ago, you were supremely (and arrogantly) convinced that Facebook would protect your sorry hide by not revealing IP addresses. You were wrong. You have a proven track record of being wrong, Cuthbert. My bet is you are wrong again when you suggest ‘it’ (presumably the case against you) will get thrown out.

  2. “and a member of the group CRINJ, Meredith Keeton, is trying to combat her own online abuse from an activist group called Rape is No Joke, by setting up her own page in rebuttal”

    You know that is not true. You know that Sonya has been the victim of CRINJ abuse for 6 months until she finally published a rebuttal. Why woukld you print such a lie? How would you turn things around backwords like that and still be credible.

    Please publish the links to these alleged “abuse from an activist group called Rape is No Joke” So we can see what you are talking about.

    This is extraordinary lie!

    • MJ Keeton says:

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/RINJ-Founder-Stalker-Fraud-MRA/155668837886089
      My evidence has been presented and my abusers from Rape is No Joke are doing everything in their power to have it removed from WordPress and Facebook, including reporting my private account for abuse and having my account limited on Facebook by claiming I am using their intellectual property (another lie). They are allowed to slander, harass, and threaten me, but I am not allowed to produce evidence defending myself? That does not seem right. If you care to take a look at the evidence, it is readily available for you.

  3. Louise McOrmond-Plummer says:

    Oh dear, Lily, it sounds like you are peddling the same tired old line that RINJ has been peddling forever. It doesn’t matter what YOU say or do to people, but those who defend themselves are bullies and Sonya is an angel? It’s getting very old hat. Crinj can and does back up everything.

    I’m so glad Nicola got something approximating justice, and I hope the same will be true for Meredith. This is a great article, WVON. Facebook is doing too much allowing people to ruin other people’s lives.

  4. Jane O says:

    Hello Lily: You should be aware that Meredith Keeton has gone to the police and contacted an attorney and is awaiting advice. From WVoN’s standpoint this indicates the online abuse is serious enough to warrant legal action.

  5. CRINJ unquestionably supports Meredith Keeton. Whilst Meredith is a part of CRINJ, she is neither the creator nor leader. Every person involved in CRINJ has equal ownership.
    CRINJ call on Lily and RINJ to present evidence of Meredith’s alleged bullying and harrasment (which they have yet to do), declare their aims and alliances (including those within MRA’s), and provide evidence of the existence of leading members.
    CRINJ have previous disclosed membership on our blog, have not hidden our relationship to various domestic violence, and rape support groups and have provided evidence of RINJ’s fraudulent activities.

  6. Please everyone beware of the group Rape Is No Joke (RINJ). I feel for you Meredith, as I was also taken in by them. I thought they were an anti-rape group and I worked to report FB pro-rape pages to them until I saw victim blaming, mens right’s links, anti feminists posts and false rape claim accusations appearing repeatedly on their FB page and groups. Now I know that the main contributors on their page have the same IP address, almost as if one person is getting a kick out of attracting vunerable people and then playing with them for kicks!

  7. JaneO says:

    Before this descends into a slanging match between CRINJ and RINJ’s supporters, please be clear that if RINJ wish to make a case to WVoN to put their point of view on in a considered, professional way then we will feature this. CRINJ have already indicated that they will gladly do so.

  8. Can I just reiterate, that CRINJ have contacted WVoN and we have agreed to present their side of the story if and when RINJ make contact to do the same.

  9. We encourage RINJ to contact WVoN to present their allegations.

  10. Ms. Osmond, thank you for presenting my story. I continue to be harassed, bullied, and stalked online despite the light you have helped to shine on this issue. If RINJ had some evidence of my supposed wrongdoing which warranted their behavior towards me, I feel they would have readily provided it and cleared their name. The fact that they have been uncooperative speaks for itself. I have been singled out because I chose to speak out about my horrible experience as a former member of RINJ. I have contacted the police and other authorities. There are laws against this kind of behavior, and as Ms. Brookes’ case illustrates, consequences for those who perpetrate these actions. As I have said before, if RINJ is embarrassed about the way they treated me (and angry about me speaking out about it now), maybe they should not have done so in the first place.

  11. KIng Troll says:

    What ‘legal challenge’ ffs? All this silly moo has done is ask for a standard court order. Her whole nonsense WILL get chucked out believe me it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove who was using a pc at any time e. The IP is totally irrelevant.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Why would your expose your address online on a public site, or even your name, it’s rule number one of Internet safety. You can prevent trolls but not stop

  13. Liam Burrows says:

    KIng Troll says: ‘Her whole nonsense WILL get chucked out believe me it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove who was using a pc at any time. The IP is totally irrelevant.’

    Incorrect. It is not necessary to prove who made these comments without a doubt.

    Firstly, because if it were, then it would not have been possible to sucessfully carry out the prosecutions which have actually happened and have actually resulted in people being fined and/or jailed.

    Secondly, it is possible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, who is responsible for posting any comment/image to Facebook simply by examining the posting history of the IP address during the period that the offending comment/image was posted. If someone has a posting history which suggests identity beyond any reasonable doubt, then that is very likely to be sufficient. In the case of a CPS prosecution, seizure of computer equipment will allow forensic analysis of login patterns etc. which would add further evidence to the case.

    Anonymous says: ‘Why would your expose your address online on a public site, or even your name, it’s rule number one of Internet safety.’

    It would be great if when we logged onto the internet we were all presented with the rule book with all the rules neatly written in it in plain English. Then we could all take a look and stay safe. But both you and I know, don’t we, that there is no such rule book, and no such rule. Except inside your head.

    • Kurt Wildhead says:

      I’m sorry Liam but that is wrong. If you read the reports of successful prosecutions you would have seen that the people responsible for the postings admitted guilt but attempted to mitigate it by way of being bullied themselves, or having asperger’s, for example. Even Colm Coss was found due to packets posted to his neighbours by him containing his trolling. All the trolls that have been convicted pleaded guilty. No one has been convicted that didn’t plead guilty by way of mitigating circumstances. King troll is right, had they pushed it, and had a decent deletion/encryption program to clean their computer after trolling, they wouldn’t have been convicted as the ISPs don’t have enough space on the computers in exchanges to actually log who has each ip address. They are random but blocks are assigned to a certain exchange. That are then assigned as a router or hub is switched on and off, ips can even be assigned to several different people in a 12 hour period. There’s a very enlightening research paper about it on the Cambridge research website. I suggest you read it before spouting off.

      • Liam Burrows says:

        @ Kurt…

        I’m quite happy for you to continue under the misapprehension that you are completely safe. It makes no difference to me at all.

        • Kurt Wildhead says:

          No difference to me, I’m just pointing out the holes with ips not to mention proxies etc, I just felt you made a mistake, the evidence need will be reduced by the guilty pleas. Even troll b gone told me that ips are not that important.

  14. RINJ ejected someone who was accused of telling lies and using an assumed name to make allegations about an ex-BF. When her ex BF contacted RINJ about the article that she cajoled us into doing about the alleged rape of MJ Stevens which apparently didn’t happen and apparently MJ Stevens or whomever doesn’t exist… we decided we didn’t want any part of either of them and disengaged from both.

    She is ostracized. He is ostracized. Get over it. Get lost, you inconsequential people acting like sheep being led by shit are led down the garden path to the outhouse thinking you are so important that anyone pays attention to you as you enjoin slander and libel against living persons and attack them incessantly on the internet.

    You have been personally bullying the volunteers of an organization just as did the creeps who ran the rape pages on Facebook; the thugs who run sex-slave rings like where we go now; and those who supported misogynistic broadcast shock-jock creepos like Patrice Oneal, Kyle Sandilands, Elliot in The Morning, and Rush Limbaugh whom RINJ has tried to get fired for the best part of a year.

    If us kids can stand up to the supporters of rape, murder and misogyny we can surely stand up to a handful of fat-assed, aged, wrinkled, cackling keyboard warriors who threaten to hurt us but can’t throw a punch enough to break a wet Lipton tea bag.

    You have published school pictures and Facebook pics of us volunteers; you published our names and and some of our phone numbers and immediately law enforcement has caused those things to be removed from WordPress and Facebook and more. You don’t get it yet. What you do is morally bankrupt and illegal.

    Then you got shit-led-tricked to Sonya’s blog to give up your IP addresses so that Subpoena’s can be made out and served to the various ISPs in six countries.

    What you do is wrong and it is illegal. Read this article. Facebook is being forced to give up the personal information of people who use Facebook as a tool to bully, abuse, slander or libel living persons.

    WordPress is next.

    Facebook.com does not have the color of right nor does WordPress.com in opposing these actions and they will both be tainted accordingly. Already Google is in discussions with authorities about giving rank to WordPress blogs that are nothing more than illegitimate attack pages.

    It is estimated that lawyers will make 2 to 3 billion in the next five years frying the asses of people who harass and bully on the internet.

    And I checked everyone with a RINJ email address and nobody has been contacted by his forum to participate in anything. Effing liars.

    I thought I would just speak my mind personally.

    You know who I am. You shit-sheep have been reporting my Facebook page for a year saying the pictures of me are too provocative for Facebook. (Because I am slim and beautiful, unlike the fatties who antagonize me like jealous cows.)

    I expect I will see this reposted out of context all over the inter net and you will be calling me names and asking people to beat up on me like you did to Sonya.

    Rape Is No Joke – Amanda

    http://amandamileslovesyou.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/dear-jane-attacking-people-who-protest-rape-culture-doesnt-paint-you-the-colour-of-right/

    • Please note: in opposition to our usual policy of not publishing hateful comments, we decided to publish this comment in its entirety because, in our view, it has allowed RINJ to confirm the kind of members they encourage to join in their organisation.

    • Hi Amanda,

      When Sonya threatened me with legal action six months ago, I told her that she could by all means get the police and her lawyer to contact me because I have nothing to hide.

      That offer still stands. Bring it on.

      Also, thank you for this response, thank you for showing this to everyone. That is all.

    • Amanda

      Now, they are some very serious allegations to make; that someone who states they are a victim of rape is a liar. Have you any proof of this?

      Also, If someone tells you, in confidence, they have been a victim of rape then it is simple respect that you do not disclose this to another person, especially on the internet when it can be viewed by anyone. Reputable organisation that deal with victims of rape would/do not disclose these personal details, unless of course, it has been agreed with the victims. I doubt very much that Ms Stephens would agree to your slander of her on this blog. Also may I highlight the case of Ched Evans and the arrest made of those individuals who published the name of his rape victim via Twitter: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-17905437

      I have looked through the Crinj blog and the supporting evidence they provide, this (combined with your statement above and your personal blog) leads me to believe that you are not an organisation campaigning for the rights of victims. I am not sure what your agenda is but making hateful comments on a well known, global, site that highlights issues affecting women is not going to win you any supporters. In fact, it will probably have the adverse effect.

      This sounds like a good thing for any woman and/or victim that could come into contact with RINJ.

  15. Louise McOrmond-Plummer says:

    OMG, where to begin? And is it worth it? Perhaps it’s too easy. “Slim and beautiful?” “Fatties”? Beautiful is as beautiful does, “Amanda” and your vicious behaviour towards others, I am afraid, makes you as ugly as sin. (I wonder if the “beautiful” thing is in keeping with the assertion RINJ published some time ago that “pretty girls” are the ones abused in the sex slavery trade).

    More tragic is the fact that you are – I strongly believe and with good reason – actually a middle age male who wears ridiculous bandanas. So much for “Fat-assed, aged, wrinkled, cackling keyboard warriors who threaten to hurt us but can’t throw a punch enough to break a wet Lipton tea bag.” “Amanda”, you are so tough, aren’t you? And there’s that violent talk again…It would be funny if real, vulnerable rape survivors (MJ, for just one example) were not being drawn into this maelstrom of lies and abuse. Goodness, what a way to promote your cause.

    If what is happening here is illegal, then lay charges! Oh wait, that would require evidence – evidence that you have so catastrophically and continuously failed to provide each time you make that and other accusations. I also am still waiting for “Sonya” to sue me, as “she” threatened to do when I made a blog post about “her” attacks on survivors of domestic violence. Apparently, that was worse than rape. Which I imagine few who have actually been raped could cheapen the impact of the experience by saying.

    Effing liars, eh? There’s an old saying that when you have one finger pointed out, you have three pointed back at yourself. Your pants must be at least smouldering. RINJ is based on lies, lies and more lies to cover old lies. It’s become almost Orwellian (“Oceania has always bean at way with Eastasia – Oceania was never at war with Eastasia” anybody?)

    RINJ knew about the invitation to respond to this blog if the volley of excuses and attacks prior to “Amanda’s” post is any indicator.

    Thankyou for publishing this, Ms. Osmond. I’m sure that you know you may, regrettably, expect more invective from RINJ as a result.

  16. Louise McOrmond-Plummer says:

    For the record, no CRINJ member has ever asked anybody to beat Sonya up. Us threatening to “hurt” them is an old saw, one trotted out time and again without any evidence. It’s uncertain as to how anybody could beat Sonya up anyway since she appears to be another creation of Micheal O’Brien.

    The Keyboard warriors thing is interesting. It probably isn’t worth a response, but I’ll give it one anyhow: Many CRINJ members have been active in feminist and/or anti-rape activities for a long time – and, unlike RINJ, we can demonstrate that we are both real people AND real activists. I’m not sure whether it’s necessary, but I am saying this to stand up for the people I’ve come to know in CRINJ. They are actual warriors who have made real contributions to the eradication of rape culture. This is much, much more than can be said for RINJ/M.O’Brien and his much-vaunted (but unsupported by any evidence) “activism”.

    The sloppy – and getting sloppier – RINJ pretensions and maintaining bogus identities to bully and harass people goes, I think, to the heart of the article that started these responses.

  17. Thank you Jane for publishing Amanda’s comment. Here are our thoughts & response http://rinjmakesuscrinj.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/rinj-response-to-wvon/

  18. vicki wharton says:

    It sounds to me as if RINJ is a type of virtual rape organisation that works by attracting in real victims of rape in order to psychologically rape them again in the way that some perverts phone the Samaritans to wank themselves off whilst talking dirty. The real point is to teach the woman in question, and all women by example, who is in charge.

  19. Annie Samilov says:

    Kurt Wildehead is an RIP troll who trolls as Rodney Swings and Steve Williams. He is best mates with rip trolls Colm Coss who was incarcerated and Darren Burton. Kurt has a penchant for extending his trolling into the real world via harassing phone calls to the children of his victims.

    • Kurt Wildhead says:

      Sorry Anne but that is wrong. You’ve readily admitted that your number is removed from directories and has been for decades, so how could anyone get your number unless you rang them first, and therefore dragged it into real life first. If you will try and take the high ground please ensure that you don’t lie in order to attempt to climb there. How did he get your number? Answer the question.

      • Kurt Wildhead says:

        Well? Cat got your typing fingers now the truth has been told?

        • Kurt Wildhead says:

          Oh and also, as it is defamation, any proof (screenshots AND IP matches), to ANY RIP trolling he has done? My money’s on you being unable to, as I know for a FACT you ARE lying on all counts.

  20. Annie Samilov says:

    Sorry Kurt, I am on holiday for the entire month of August in the Canary Islands. Yes, there are dozens of screen caps of your sick trolling and your IP address does match. Though, you are currently using a mobile phone and wrongly believe you can´t be tracked. My legal firm has petitioned FB for several trolls personal information and the high court has granted it.

    Tick tock you sick freaks.

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