Trolling abuse got worse for victim Nicola Brookes after Facebook victory
NICOLA Brookes, the victim of internet trolling who won a landmark case against Facebook forcing the site to reveal the identities of those responsible claims the abuse has got worse.
Miss Brookes, 45, faced "vicious and depraved" abuse on Facebook after she posted a comment supporting former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza when he left the show last year.
Her anonymous tormentors set up a fake Facebook profile in her name using her picture to post explicit comments and lure young girls, London’s High Court heard.
In the first ruling of its kind, the social network site was ordered by the court to hand over details of those who made the comments about her.
But Miss Brookes claims the abuse only got worse following the ruling with interent trolls setting up websites in her name.
"The abuse and trolling of me has increased," she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme
"The abuse is absolutely horrendous and nothing can be done about it and nothing can be stopped. No one in authority is stepping in to say enough. I know that what I am doing is right."
"These people are not random people who are bored. These are a group of people that share information and pick people out and target them on purpose. They literally torture people. They steal your life, steal your ID and spread malicious information."
"It might take a while because I am not going to stop until these people are found, exposed and held accountable to what they have done."
Miss Brookes said she decided to take legal action after Sussex Police told her they could not help her because it would be impossible to prove who was responsible for the abuse.
The single mother also criticised Facebook’s complaints system, saying it failed to address the abuse she was subjected to.
“It was so overwhelming and graphic that I couldn't keep up with it all. We managed to get what we could and other people started gathering evidence as well.
“I printed out hundreds of sheets of evidence and took it to the police station and I was in the first interview for less than 15 minutes and the WPC officer who was interviewing me said ‘there is nothing we can do because we can't possibly investigate all comments and insults on Facebook, there are too many and we can't prove who these people are’.
"I said the vile comments made towards me are one thing, that is bad enough, but this person had set up this fake account, a sex account, spreading it all over Facebook with my name and photo – they stole my identity.”
She added: “A few days after the fake profile started I realised I needed proper legal help about this because the reporting system on Facebook doesn’t work. There’s nowhere else for you to contact.
“I went through the proper channels and did everything I was supposed to do the reason I didn’t block it was because I wouldn’t have been able to take screen shots and get the evidence that I have.”
Miss Brookes had posted a message online supporting Cocozza, saying: “Keep your chin up, Frankie, they'll move on to someone else soon."
Within minutes, anonymous users had set up a fake account using her name and pictures, and begun to post explicit comments. At one point, Miss Brookes's address and a picture of her daughter were published online.
Miss Brookes, from Brighton, East Sussex, sought legal advice and the case went to the High Court where a judge ruled Facebook must reveal the IP addresses of the trolls, who will then be identified by their internet service providers.
Miss Brookes will then launch the first private prosecution of its kind over the harassment.
Sussex Police said they asked Facebook to remove any abusive posts about Ms Brookes and said their investigation was still continuing and had been reviewed.
A police spokesman said: “We have looked at the material sent to us by Ms Brookes and we have told Facebook to remove anything offensive or abusive towards her.
"We are also seeking information from Facebook and the fact that the High Court has given authority to apply for the information required from Facebook is welcomed and may help our investigation.
"As Facebook is an international website, millions of people from all over the world use it. We need to gather evidence to prove who the person is for a successful prosecution to take place.
"Officers examine any such allegations of bullying, harassment or malicious communication and every case is taken seriously."
Facebook said it shares information such as IP addresses and basic subscriber information, including names, email addresses and registration dates, when there is a legal justification and obligation.
Along with other large internet companies, it receives similar requests frequently but the company said all demands for information must be backed up by a court order.
A Facebook spokesman 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 that such people are brought to justice."
Although Ms Brookes's case is believed to be the first of its kind, there have been other recent examples where the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have brought trolls before the courts.
They include student Liam Stacey, 21, from Pontypridd, south Wales, who was jailed for 56 days for mocking Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba on Twitter after he collapsed with a heart attack.