Social media injunction
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The first case in the UK of service of a harassment injunction via social media
The case of DDF v YYZ established a principle that a victim of social media harassment, may serve an injunction on the defendant via the social media platform Instagram. If you are the victim of harassment, cyber bullying or defamation on social media, we will obtain an injunction whilst anonymising you, to protect your reputation and to allow you to continue with uninterrupted use of your social media account.
In the case of DDF v YYZ, social media lawyer, Yair Cohen, obtained an injunction against an anonymous Instagram troll and was permitted, for the first time in the UK, to serve the harassment injunction via the social media platform Instagram. Prior the case of DDF v YYZ, service of an injunction on a social media user via the social media platform, where the harassment took place, was not considered as appropriate service of the injunction.
There is sometimes a misconception that if you are famous and in the public eye, you must also be willing to tolerate social media harassment and abuse. This, of course is untrue. The law recognises that there are situations where an individual chooses to put herself forward in the public domain, participate in social media activities and even benefit from those activities financially. However, this does not mean that she become a fair target to trolling, bullying and harassment.
The level of tolerance expected from a celebrity is often higher than the level of tolerance which is expected from a media shy individual, but this does not mean that there is unlimited amount of abuse that can be directed at a celebrity. The law is that a celebrity can obtain a social media injunction even if they are active on social media and even profiting from it. Each case is judged on its own merits so if you are a celebrity being abused on social media, it is worth consulting with an experienced social media lawyer before deciding to either shut down your social media or to pursue a legal avenue with an attempt to shut out your internet trolls.
In the case of DDF v YYZ, Yair cohen obtained an injunction against unknown Instagram users who harassed and cyberbullied his client, who was working in the entertainment industry. To protect the privacy of his client, all the parties in this legal action had been anonymised. D was a self-described troll who mounted a month-long campaign of harassment against Mr Cohen’s client involving sending of vile and highly offensive messages on Instagram through a series of different accounts. Beyond its staple of personal attacks on the victim with a racial and sexual element, the campaign has encompassed distressing references to members of the victim’s family.
Like many other celebrities, the victim tried to ignore the harassing campaign for some time but eventually its nature had taken a turn, and started to include threats to exacerbate the nature and scale of the harassment campaign and to disclosure private information, or purported private information, about the victim. While some of the content of the messages received by the victim could be characterised as mere vulgar abuse, much of it was very serious and distressing.
The campaign constituted of harassment in the form of racial abuse, sending and threatening to disclose indecent images to the public, allegations that the victim was involved in inappropriate sexual activities and insinuations that he was a rapist. The police, unfortunately, had been slow to assist the victim who required an injunction to stop the harassment to be granted with no delay. Whilst the police were still investigating the case, the victim had already applied to the court to obtain the social media injunction.
Whilst court hearings are usually public, there are cases, such as DDF v YYZ, where the victim may request that on the basis that publicity would defeat the objective of the hearing, the hearing should be in private. This was not only because the victim was hoping to protect private information but also because in these types of cases, it is important to obtain the injunction first, so as to avoid any publication on social media which would pre-empt it. In other words, it is important to ensure that the harasser is not being tipped off about the injunction request before it is granted.
For this reason, at least parts of the hearing concerning a social media injunction should be held in private. The press, of course is often interested in cases involving celebritaies and other individuals who are in the public eye. When a person takes out a social media injunction, it is therefore possible to request that the press is restricted with what can be reported from the hearing.
Before the court grants a social media injunction, you will need to prove the following: There was a conduct which occurred on at least two occasions, that the conduct targeted you, and the conduct was calculated in an objective sense to cause alarm or distress, and can be objectively judged to be oppressive and unacceptable. You will need to show that there is publication of your name on websites or on social media platforms with the knowledge that such publications will inevitably come to your attention on more than one occasion and on each occasion cause you alarm and distress.
Nearly always, highly offensive content of messages sent to you, which include racial and sexual elements, references to violence towards you or towards your family, falsely and maliciously claims and threats to disclose private information about you will be sufficient to prove harassment on social media.
In the case of DDF v YYZ, the Judge, Nicol J granted a privacy and harassment injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and it included prohibitions against further disclosure of private information about our client. Both the fact that we, at that stage, did not know the real identity of the harassing persons, and the nature of the threats made against the victim, meant that it was just, convenient and appropriate that the injunction was granted prior immediately.
Having granted the injunction, the Judge made an historic court order which permitted to serve the injunction, the restraining order and any other legal papers on the harassing Instagram users via their active Instagram accounts. In fact, this was the first time that any court in the world, had made an order permitting service of an harassment injunction via Instagram. Our client’s decision paid off and was worth it. The harassment stopped immediately and has never returned since.