In the news - Government cracks down on internet trolls

Internet trolls who post abusive and defamatory messages about others may soon have fewer bridges to hide under if new proposals by the government are passed.

In the news: Teaching Resources - 13 June

New legislation may virtually end the age of the internet troll


Internet trolls who post abusive and defamatory messages about others may soon have fewer bridges to hide under if new proposals by the government are passed.

The plans, which have been included in the in-progress Defamation Bill, would require websites to release the identity of such commenters when requested by a complainant. Justice secretary Ken Clarke explained that the measures had been introduced to the legislation in order to protect the owners of websites that allow comments. “Website operators are in principle liable as publishers for everything that appears on their sites, even though the content is often determined by users,” he said. “Our proposed approach will mean that website operators have a defence against libel as long as they identify the authors of allegedly defamatory material when requested to do so by a complainant.”

The issue of internet defamation and cyberbullying has become more prominent in recent months and in the last week alone, three stories about internet trolls have hit the headlines. On Friday, the High Court ruled that the social networking site Facebook should reveal the IP addresses and any other relevant information about users who conducted an online bullying campaign against a house-bound Brighton resident. Nicola Brookes received a torrent of abuse after posting a message in support of the former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza., including a fake profile being set up in her name that claimed she was a paedophile and drug dealer.

The Arsenal footballer Jack Wilshere has also been targeted by internet bullies and has deleted his Twitter profile and contacted police over online allegations that his absence from the England and Arsenal squads were due to failing a drugs test for cocaine. A spokesperson for Arsenal football club said that such rumours were “entirely fabricated and false”.

Meanwhile, a persistent internet troll who targeted the Conservative MP Louise Mensch has been given a suspended sentence and has been banned from contacting a number of people, including the businessman and TV personality Lord Sugar and David Petraeus, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Frank Zimmerman was found guilty after sending a harassing email to Ms Mensch dubbing her “the slut of Twitter” and threatening to kill one of her children. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph after the conviction, Ms Mensch said that such court cases dispelled the myth that the internet was “a magical, protected space” that could not be policed.

“[Trolls] type threats on their keyboard that they would never utter in person,” she said. “Social networks have a duty to identify internet bullies who cower behind anonymity. As victims repeatedly fight back, we can hope to see a culture shift.”





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