UK court orders Facebook to release troll IPs

A British woman who was the target of an online abuse campaign has succeeded in her bid to have the perpetrators identified.

The High Court ruled that Facebook has to reveal the IP addresses who abused Nicola Brookes, of Brighton. Brookes told the BBC that she was targeted by internet trolls after she posted a supportive message about talent show contestant Frankie Cocozza.

After the post, trolls tried to do their best to make her life miserable, even trying to portray her as a drug dealer and paedophile. Brookes claims that one online bully created a fake profile in her name and proceeded to send explicit messages to girls. Others even tracked her online and invaded a cooking forum to continue the abuse.

Brookes’ solicitor Rupinder Bains pointed out that Facebook did not contest the order, but it could not hand over the IP addresses without a court order, as it would have violated data protection laws. Facebook confirmed it handed over the IP addresses and other relevant information.

“There is no place for harassment on Facebook, but unfortunately a small minority of malicious individuals exist online, just as they do offline,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

While the case was not contested by Facebook, it is significant nonetheless. It is the first such case in the UK and it could help speed up similar proceedings. The case could serve as a template for future bullying or identity theft complaints. Brookes now has to get another court order from her ISP in order to identify the bullies. However, even with the ISP on board, she might have a hard time identifying the people behind the smear campaign.