The Internet has made a publisher of the man on the Clapham Omnibus and the rise of social media has opened up communication across the globe. Unfortunately, some people use these platforms as means of inciting unwanted, often circular, arguments, launching repeated baseless attacks and monitoring people’s activity without their consent. Those who behave abusively online are referred to as internet trolls, and examples of ‘trolling’ include: -
- Posting repeated ‘comments’ on message boards or news articles, attacking someone’s
character and/or invading their privacy, or designed to provoke argument
- Repeatedly sending abusive or otherwise upsetting Tweets
- ‘Following’ a person into online chatrooms or Facebook in order to interrupt conversations
and invade their privacy
Trolls or cyberbullies sometimes labour under the misapprehension that they can say and do what they want online. Alternatively, they may take the view that they can get away with it (perhaps by disguising their identity).
Everyone has a right to enjoy what this world has to offer without fear of attack – and that extends to the World Wide Web. Under the law of England and Wales, any course of conduct (two or more incidents) designed to cause a person alarm or distress, or where the perpetrator ought to know that is the likely outcome, is harassment. It is a defence for the perpetrator to show that their conduct was reasonable, but with ‘trolling’ this will rarely be the case.
Harassment is a criminal offence contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment. Victims should consider whether they wish to
make a report to the Police. Unfortunately, however, the Police are often overstretched and
under-resourced, and online crime of this nature is sometimes not seen as a priority. In those circumstances you may want to take civil action against the person concerned.
Our cyberbullying and trolling solicitors can help you by: –
- Writing a Letter of Claim, or ‘cease and desist’ letter, to the person responsible
- Issuing a Claim for harassment
- Securing an interim or post-Judgment injunction prohibiting the behaviour complained of
- Persuading third parties such as website operators or hosts to remove offending material
- Making representations (where appropriate) to the Police or Crown Prosecution Service
that an investigation or prosecution should be commenced
We may be able to help you even where the perpetrator is anonymous – see our page on Norwich Pharmacal Orders.
What to do if you are being trolled
- Do not engage with a troll or retaliate. The common mantra “do not feed the trolls” is good advice. If you do not take the bait, they may eventually lose interest. If you have already engaged with a troll then simply make it clear, on one occasion, that you want them to stop what they are doing. Do not get drawn into dialogue about this.
- Keep a record of the trolling. Print off relevant webpages ensuring they are dated.
- Consider making a complaint to the police. You should certainly do this if you believe you or anyone else is in danger.
- If the harassment is ongoing and you feel you need to take legal action contact us.
We offer fixed-fee preliminary consultations. A consultation will help you understand the legal and practical issues relating to your case and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take. The cost of a consultation will depend on the factual and legal complexity of the matter and, in particular, how much paperwork you require us to consider ahead of the meeting. In relatively straightforward matters, the cost may be as low as £500 plus vat.
Our work is of the highest standard. Every case we handle has partner involvement. We are well-respected by media practitioners. As well as being listed in the prestigious Legal 500 directory as a leading firm in the field of defamation law and privacy law, every solicitor in the media law department is recommended by the directory. Equally, the firm is ranked as a leading firm by Chambers & Partners for defamation and reputation management work, with Iain Wilson and Max Campbell individually recognised. Most importantly, we achieve positive results for our clients and excellent feedback.
Please note that we do not undertake civil litigation on a legal aid basis or undertake harassment claims on a conditional fee agreement (CFA/’no win no fee’) basis. Information on legal aid can be found at the Government’s benefits and credits website by clicking here.