Xfactor web abuse leads to troll law lobbying

Legal PR firm Byfield Consultancy is supporting a high profile web abuse case as part of a campaign to bring in new laws against internet trolls.

Byfield told PR Week it wants to see stronger police powers against online abuse and is working with solicitors Bains Cohen to handle a pro-bono brief on behalf of Nicola Brookes.

Brookes suffered from abuse after leaving a supportive comment on the Facebook site of The X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza which seemed to get a little out of hand.

A day  after her post, she received 100 abusive comments. Apparently ‘trolls’ had set up a fake profile using her name, image and personal email and were calling her Cocozza’s drug dealer, a prostitute, and a paedophile.

There were also indecent comments levelled at her daughter and she was forced to seek legal help to get the page removed. The case is going to the High Court in a bid to force Facebook to release the IP addresses of the trolls.

Byfield said that police powers to combat trolls need to be tightened after Brookes was told by the police they were unlikely to be able to arrest anyone.

The agency has launched a media campaign based on research into internet abuse showing more than half of people have received some form of abusive communication.

The company said that it will be the first private prosecution against internet trolls and Byfield wants it to be a test case to effect a change in future prosecutions.

MD of Byfield, Gus Sellitto, who is managing the campaign, said that urgent action needs to be taken to address a very serious and increasing problem of internet trolls.

There needs to be a change in how internet trolling is investigated and how victims of this kind of abuse are treated by the authorities. They will have a lot of work on their hands.

He called for a dedicated police unit to deal with internet trolls, as exist for other forms of serious abuse.