These faceless abusers targeted a defenceless woman for a hate campaign which falsely accused her of being a paedophile and a drug dealer. They used Facebook as their main platform to publish the woman’s address and post all kinds of rants against her. And they didn’t stop there – they chased her around other social network platforms in a disturbing campaign of harassment.
After hearing her story the High Court ruled – correctly in the minds of most right-thinking people – that Facebook has to hand over the details it holds on the abusers. That information will allow the victim to haul her tormentors in front of another court. I hope that court has the good sense to throw the book at them.
One bizarre twist to the story is that Facebook apparently wanted to co-operate with the victim’s legal team but were prohibited under data protection laws to reveal the information without a court order. To the credit of FB they didn’t contest the order.
The lawyer for the victim said afterwards: “Basically we need to show it’s in the interests of justice… we need to prove the third party, namely Facebook, isn’t just a mere witness but is in fact involved in the wrongdoing, albeit innocently, but they are involved. We were able to meet that criteria and hence the order was granted.”
I just find it all so strange that things couldn’t have been sorted out a lot sooner than they have been. For a start, the case highlights, in my opinion (inserted for my legal protection) that there must be gaps (chasms even) in the procedures used by Facebook to monitor its platform. Surely this can’t have gone unnoticed by their monitors? Surely they must have some methods to alert them to keywords or phrases?
Then again we also have to question the current nonsensical protections offered by data protection laws. I know everyone should be treated equally under these laws but when a complaint, as serious as the one involved in this case, is raised there has to be a better way of cutting to the chase than going through the High Court every time.
That brings me to a third point. The police either could not or would not involve themselves in the case. The victim was forced to take a private action when it would have made more sense to have provided the police with the powers to seek information in cases issues such as this. It would take little more than a tweaking of data protection legislation. How could it be considered an infringement of civil liberties if police track down criminals based on so-called priviledged information?
I don’t know about you but I hope this proves to be a watershed moment. If by her actions this woman helps to stamp out social network harassment and defamation then we should all be looking to post her a message – one of thanks and congratulations.
Please have your say. This is an issue that affects us all. Let the regulators know where you stand when it comes to bullying and intimidation. Let’s draw attention to this. Please leave a comment.
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