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We must change cyber bullying law
Anonymous online abuse and harassment is growing, and nobody is immune to it.
I want people to know how easy it is to be a target of nameless attackers who are often referred to as ‘internet trolls’.
Privacy on Facebook is not guaranteed, even if you limit access to you and your personal information.
All a troll needs is your name and photo to set up a fake profile.
In my case I tried answering back, which only made the attacks worse. I followed every available procedure but the abuse kept coming.
The trolls were following me online and on every page I visited they would be an hour or two behind me.
They did internet searches on me to get as much information on me as possible.
They used this information to post up personal details of me, taunt and bait me on their own troll pages.
Eventually they even found my daughter on Facebook and used her to get at me.
When the trolls found my home address the abuse took a frighteningly sinister turn.
Knowing these people have easy access to you, not just online but at your own home is terrifying. They openly brag that they are coming to my home to harm me.
I now have no protection online or offline and I live in constant dread. How far does it have to go?
It does not matter where you post your comments. These trolls actively seek out and pick victims from many different pages.
My nightmare has impacted on my life and taken a toll on my health. When it began I started doing my own research into online cyber bullying and stalking.
Since my case was reported in The Argus in February many people have contacted me with information and told me of their own trolling problems.
The abuse they are suffering is very real, heartbreaking and especially serious because no one has stepped in to stop it.
We have all repeatedly pressed the ‘report’ button for days, weeks and months – but the automated reporting system on Facebook is seriously flawed.
In my case it did not work, and because of the sheer amount and type of abuse I was receiving I quickly realised I needed professional legal help.
The struggle to get Sussex Police to investigate has been frustrating and stressful despite giving them full evidence and credible links to the abuse and harassment towards me.
There is another side of Facebook people don’t see unless they are directly a target of the trolls.
It is not simply a matter of closing my profile and ignoring it because that is just passing the problem on to someone else.
Why should I get off Facebook and the trolls stay on to carry on spreading their lies, graphic sexual pages and abuse about me or others?
My legal case is the first of its kind in this country – but unfortunately my experience is definitely not the first of its kind.
I hope my case can highlight and show why the police need to be better prepared, trained and current laws have to be updated to effectively deal with the growing number of online crimes.
Instead of issuing the same statements about ‘taking responsibility for the content on its website’, Facebook should improve the reporting system or provide a helpline that people can directly use to get this type of abuse and bullying quickly reported and dealt with.
If the option was there and if the trolls were repeatedly banned there would be no need to report to the police.
The damage and pain these faceless cowards cause towards other members should not be taken lightly or ignored.
Let’s use our voices to call for a change on cyber bullying laws and for more help and security from the social network sites.
It has taken a long time to move forward with my case. I have the best legal team in the country working alongside me.
I will go all the way through the courts to help open the way for more people to take action.
I will not stop until the person responsible for that false profile is found, exposed and held accountable.
This was a sustained, vicious, deliberate act to abuse me, harass me and crucify me publicly for months using shocking paedophile details, lies and graphic threats of violence.
I have a right to defend myself.
I understand free speech, and people’s right to it on a public social network.
However, allowing someone to steal someone’s identity and use it in a graphic and vile manner is not freedom of speech – it is freedom to commit crime.
Sussex Police response
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “We understand how difficult this has been for Ms Brookes and the distress this has caused her.
“We have looked at the material sent to us by Ms Brookes and we have told Facebook to remove anything offensive or abuse towards her.
"The matter is still subject of a police investigation and is currently being reviewed by senior detectives to see what further enquiries should be made.
"Ms Brookes and her solicitor will be kept in touch with developments.
“Millions of people from all over the world use Facebook. We need to gather evidence to prove who the person is for a successful prosecution to take place.
“Specially trained officers examine any such allegations of bullying, harassment or malicious communication and every case is taken seriously.”
A Facebook spokesman said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people that use our service. Unlike other websites and forums Facebook has a real name culture, which provides greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment.
“We are clear that there is no place for bullying or harassment on Facebook and we respond aggressively to reports of potential abuse.
“We provide our users with the tools to report abuse on every page and the option to block people from having any further contact with them. Reports involving harassment are prioritised, reviewed by a team of reviewers and removed if they violate our terms.”
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