Equitable Remedy of Discovery Supports an Order to Reveal Identity of Cyber Bullies

In what the London Times describes as a “groundbreaking” decision, the UK High Court last week ordered Facebook to disclose the email and IP addresses and other information of anonymous internet tormentors – “trolls” – who set up a fake profile of a woman using her photograph.

The order must now be served on Facebook in the US. It has declared it will comply with the order.

How easily Nicola Brookes became a target is described by Women’s Views on News. She was labelled a paedophile and drug dealer. (She has since set up a face book page Trolls and Me to garner support for legislative changes that will empower authorities to prosecute internet trolls.)

The UK court relied on the Norwich Pharmacal line of authority originally used in commercial situations to order financial institutions, unwittingly used as part of a fraud scheme, to disclose confidential information so injured parties could sue for redress. Norwich orders have been made in Canada.

Orders stripping internet anonymity have been made in the US, most notably against Twitter following threats of violence against presidential candidate Michelle Bachman.

In Canada the right to pursue a defamation claim against an ISP without disclosing identity is pending before the Supreme Court in the Bragg Communications case, but Canadian victims seeking to pursue the individuals responsible for internet defamation should have a good look at the UK Brookes decision.

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