The recent case of Nicola Brookes has brought to the forefront of people’s mind an endemic issue that is occurring on the internet, and in particular on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter – that of online harassment. However, what constitutes online harassment? How bad does it have to get before it is considered harassment? Is it just individuals that suffer this?
Many people now consider Facebook and Twitter to be a normal way of communication, so much so, that it is probably on par with a mobile phone. There are friends of mine who I know will not answer text messages or phone calls, but will happily respond to a tweet, or wall post on Facebook within seconds of me putting something up – in fact, with some people, I know this is the only way to get hold of them. With the norms of social communication shifting in this way, the way that criticism and abuse is levied by people on one another, and on businesses is also changing. Gone are the days when we would have a row in the street, or a furious phone call with a customer services rep; now displeasure is published in cyberspace via online messaging, tweeting and blogging. A prime example of this changing nature is clearly illustrated by what happened in Ms. Brookes’ case.
We must bear in mind that just because something appears online – it does not detract from just how hurtful, abusive and damaging it can be – just because it is online it does not mean that it is just banter and should be ignored . This attitude is wrong and must change now. Numerous people abusing a person online, consistently, for prolonged periods is not banter, it is likely to be abuse and harassment of the highest order. Such behaviour is a clear warning sign of online harassment. It could also be the start of you being targeted by online trolls, who make it their business to follow your every online move and abuse and harass you in the most harrowing of ways (in the Nicola Brookes case this involved the creation of fake Facebook accounts in her name that attempted to lure and groom young girls for sex, accused Ms. Brookes or being a paedophile, drug addict and many other things).
This is not something that just happens to individuals, it can also happen to businesses. If you find that there is offensive material about you online, which pops up at all hours of the day and night, no matter what good information you or your search engine optimisation company put out, this is unlikely to be a coincidence, but instead could be the sign that your business, its clients and its goodwill is being targeted by online trolls, who in most cases will have nothing to do with you or your business. Trolls will have one aim in mind, to completely destroy your business until there is nothing left. But, this could also be the actions of someone more sinister, a disgruntled employee or supplier who is hell bent on destroying your business, and with the obvious anonymity the internet gives this, destruction can very quickly become a reality.
The worst possible thing that can be done here is that you bury your head in the sand and think it will blow over. IT WON’T!!! However, we at Pinder Reaux, as internet law specialists can help:
- We have direct links with the corporations upon which most online harassment takes place, namely Facebook and Twitter. This in turn means that we can quickly report and action the immediate removal/blocking of the offenders, thereby by preventing them from getting at you, or your business.
- We have direct links and contacts within Google and therefore we can help prevent the publishing of online offensive links via the Google search engine to global users in individual jurisdictions.
- We have a streamlined and expeditious process for the applying and obtaining of interim injunctions, anti-harassment injunctions and disclosure orders from the High Court of Justice.
- We are one of the few firms that are specialists in this area of law, and as a client you can rest assured that you will be getting the most immediate and undivided attention from us. To combat online harassment you need to move quick, procrastinating with a lawyer that is unsure of the law, and what strategy to adopt, can cost you substantial amounts, not just in tangible losses but intangible losses in respect of stress, for example.