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Online trolling legal help

Online trolling legal help

The crime of online trolling  

Online trolling involves the commission of crimes under harassment law and malicious communication law. Until recently, the law has been relatively pro-troll and it was difficult to persuade the police to investigate crimes involving trolling. There are signs, however, that the situation is gradually improving. 

How does the law treat online trolling

Identifying internet trolls

Why victims of internet trolls often find it difficult to share their experience

What to do if you are being trolled online

How does the law treat online trolling

Internet trolling involves a persistent deliberate provocation by the troll who sets up a conversation aiming to cause the victim harassment and distress.

Harassment is an offensive unwanted behaviour which causes the victim to feel intimidated or humiliated. It can happen on its own or alongside other forms of discrimination. Harassment takes different shapes and forms. It could be committed online by stalking, by piling-on or by trolling. The common denominator for the different forms of harassment is that they involve more than a single occasion of communication and that they intend to cause the victim distress. Online trolling involves harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act because it involves persistent unwanted communication, which is dressed up as a genuine conversational attempt and which is intended to cause the victim distress.

Often, once the victim of online trolling has been set up, what will follow is a flow of hating and humiliating comments that are designed to cause the trolling victim to feel harassed and distressed. Online trolling also involves the commission of communication crimes. Under the Malicious Communications Act, when a troll causes distress to their victim by sending electronic communication that is indecent or highly offensive, a threat or false information, they might also be committing a crime. Interestingly, in both cases, the victim does not need to read the messages that the troll is sending.

It is often enough for the trolling victim to know that those messages had been sent. Up until recently, online trolling was considered a lower level offence which The Crown Prosecution Service considered not worthy of prosecution. In 2012 the head of The Crown Prosecution Service (DPP) set out guidelines to the police on prosecution of offences committed via social media where he instructed that the police must apply high threshold of offensiveness before starting an investigation. Prosecutors were instructed to only consider issuing criminal proceedings against internet trolls and harassers if the messages and comments are more than just offensive, shocking, or disturbing and even then, after considering carefully the public interest in maintaining free speech. In recent years, however, this has changed and the guidance on prosecution of internet trolls is far more victim orientated.

Identifying internet trolls

It is no longer impossible to identify internet trolls, although the police are often reluctant to take the necessary steps to do this. Identifying internet trolls has become a real speciality in recent years for a number of law firms and evidently, in nearly 93 percent of cases, we have been able to identify and locate unsuspecting internet trolls who have been causing our clients harassment and distress.

We have developed processes to help us do this fast and cost effectively and we work with all the major social media companies and with attorneys and private detectives around the world, to verify the identity of anonymous internet trolls and to bring them to justice.

Why victims of internet trolls often find it difficult to share their experience

Victims of internet trolling often find it difficult to share their experience, particularly celebrities, sports people and other professionals who are in the pubic eye.

Our clients often say that until you have experienced online abuse, it is very hard to understand how it feels. You cannot escape it and when it gets into your psyche it could cause serious damage to your confidence. Often confident people or celebrities who project a confident image, turn fragile when it comes to online trolling. Some of the reported impacts of online trolling on our celebrity clients is shattered confidence, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, body dysmorphia and so very often, tragically, suicidal thoughts.

Nearly always, present online trolling tends to cause at least some degree of mental health disturbance. Another reason why victims of internet trolling find it difficult to share their experiences or to seek professional help is that when you become victim of online trolling, you feel that there are expectations of you to tolerate the abuse and what you don’t realise is that when the degree of the online abuse grows slowly and steadily, it might bring you slowly to a boiling point where you might not be willing to admit that the trolls have crossed a line. You might at this point want to seek help but by this time, it is already feels too late, in terms of the effects of the abuse online, since you have read the comments from the ever growing group of internet trolls and they are being shared, linked, liked in nano-seconds. With the enormity of the internet, it means that all of the horrendous comments about you are growing and there is no escape from that.

What to do if you are being trolled online

The best thing to do when you are being trolled online and are experiencing some of the signs described above, is to put your phone away for a day or to, take a step back, and give yourself an opportunity to observe your own situation objectively and without interference.

Whether you are in the public eye or not, the online abuse escalates if the trolls know they have hit a nerve with you. Ignoring it is not an option. Deleting the social media account is an option.  Distancing yourself between you and online trolls is often a good option.

Internet trolling legal help from a specialised internet law solicitor, who has had 23 years of experience in the field would help you consider your situation objectively before moving to resolving the situation.  Having a calm conversation with an expert in the field is often hugely helpful and comforting and is a great way to start moving forward.

Troll harassment legal help
Facebook first injunction against internet trolls. Comment, by Yair Cohen, of Cohen Davis Solicitors who worked on Nicola's case. Published by Daily Mirror

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