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Online troll arrested in Facebook case: UPDATE: policeman named

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Jane Osmond
WVoN co-editor

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BREAKING NEWS: The man arrested in connection with the email hacking of troll victim Nicola Brookes has been named as Birmingham policeman Lee Rimell, 32.

 

—————–In June of this year I wrote about how Nicola Brookes, a UK woman targeted by Facebook trolls, won her legal fight to compel Facebook to release the relevant IP addresses.

Brookes, who posted a supportive comment on X-Factor Frankie Cocozza’s contestant page, subsequently received a barrage of online abuse which included publishing her address online and setting up a fake Facebook page in her name which contained such comments as: “I am a paedophile and I like underage girls and me and Frankie f**k them together.”

It is anticipated that the legal progress of the subpoena which compels Facebook to hand over the details of the abusers will conclude soon. However last week, whilst on a train to London, Brookes received the welcome news that one of her trolls had been identified by Brighton CID in connection with the case following a successful investigation into an email hacking offence.

The male hacker was arrested on 21st August in a joint effort by Brighton CID and West Midlands Police.

I spoke to Brookes to see how she felt about the news.

“I was so relieved and I’m grateful for the police investigation that led to an arrest being made regarding the hacking of my personal email account. Not only does this hacking offence relate to the prolonged and vicious online abuse of me on Facebook, but I worry innocent contacts in my hacked email account are now vulnerable and at risk of abuse.

“I thank Brighton CID officers and hopefully more arrests will be made soon.”

Nicola confirmed that she has been supported over the past few weeks pro bono by Web Sheriff, an anti-piracy and online brand management agency.

Spokesperson John Giacobbi commented:

“I was personally outraged with Facebook and appalled at the treatment dished-out to Ms Brookes when I first read of her story and decided to make contact to offer our support. The information handed-over by Facebook has been very helpful and, ultimately, everyone on-line is identifiable – so these hens are coming home to roost, as we’ve already seen from last week’s arrest.”

For Brookes this support has been invaluable, helping her to remain strong in the face of the abuse she has suffered.

“It’s reassuring to have somebody like Web Sheriff on my side who is the online protector to the stars, offering to support me with my case, who, ironically, contacted me through Facebook.”

This offer of support is one of many that has been received from all over the world. Because of the case, Brookes is legally restricted and cannot always respond to supporters, but appreciates the messages she has received.

“Thank you to all the people who take the time to contact me, many telling me of their own struggles and heartbreaking experiences of their abuse on Facebook. Messages do reach me and I read and appreciate them.

“While the trolls have freely, openly continued to stalk, bait, and abuse me for many months, I am not able to defend myself or comment online for legal reasons. I will reply eventually when I claim my privacy and life back from the trolls and Facebook.”

Unfortunately the trolling has not stopped: although Brookes does not engage with others on Facebook at the moment, she is kept informed about what is happening by well-wishers.

To date she says the abuse has reached ‘ridiculous levels’ and there are an estimated 11 fake Facebook pages set up under her name, some of which involve her daughter.  In addition, a fake Twitter account set up in her name was also targeted by trolls.

Despite this, she remains undefeated and has this message for anyone in a similar position:

“Don’t give up, don’t let trolls, abusers intimidate or scare you. Don’t be fobbed off by those in authority who may tell you that there’s nothing that can be done – that’s just passing the problem on to someone else. Mostly, don’t turn a blind eye and ignore it – closing your account or not reporting it is not the answer.

“If Facebook and other social network giants spent as much time looking after their members and enforcing their terms and conditions as they have done on their stock-market floatation these harassment and abuse cases would be dealt with more swiftly and effectively.”

Instances of online abuse are becoming common knowledge with celebrities speaking out about their experiences.

It seems that the law is, at last, beginning to catch up with the online world with the inclusion of new stalking laws developed earlier this year after a 12 week Home Office consultation. The new laws are to be included within the Protection of Freedom Act 2012 and will come into force on 25th November.

This law can’t come too soon for all those online who suffer from the trolls. It is hoped that it will be effectively and efficiently policed.

Just  to throw in a suggestion, maybe the cost of prosecuting those who persistently abuse others online could be paid by networks such as Facebook and Twitter who at the moment seem to wash their hands of their responsibilities to their users, whilst making vast profits from them.

We can only hope.

  1. Liam Burrows says:

    I am absolutely delighted for Nicola, and am really looking forward to seeing the people responsible for the attacks on her prosecuted.

    Your suggestion that the social networks should be made to take responsibility for the postings of their members is a good one, I think. By knowingly allowing illegal postings to remain on their sites when they have the ability to remove or edit them, I believe sites such as Facebook must share responsibility for the existence of such postings. The UK Defamation Bill suggests that the publishing of defamatory statements will not lead to liability if the defendant:

    (a) was not the author, editor or publisher of the statement complained of
    (b) took reasonable care in relation to its publication, and
    (c) did not know, and had no reason to believe, that what he did caused or contributed to the publication of a defamatory statement.

    Taking this at face value, I would suggest that a social network being held responsible for defamatory comments might be able to claim (a), but almost certainly not (b) or (c), especially if a complaint has been made. To my mind, this would make them responsible for what their users post – which is how it should be.

    • Hi Liam
      Yes I think that the only way to stop the trolling is to make the social networks responsible for what is posted on their platforms. If nothing else they understand money and if they were under threat of being fined, this may concentrate their minds a bit more.

      • Jane Da Vall says:

        Agreed. It is only the social networks themselves that can take any meaningful action against trolling. The free flow of information and ideas that Facebook, Twitter etc have made possible is revolutionary and must rightly be protected, but that isn’t why Facebook tolerates trolls. As you say, it’s about money. The speed with which Facebook removed pictures of breastfeeding mothers made that clear to all. Their hostility to victims will continue until it ceases to be the cheapest policy available to them.

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