I've been following issues like this for a long time: Internet bullying, trolls, and how the courts will eventually have to step in and do something about it to set some standards. Precedents will need to be set as more and more people start to use the Internet.
So far most average people in the mainstream use the Internet for basic things. They shop sometimes. They download coupons. And whenever there's a medical issue/crisis, they google it to find out more information.
But for the most part the majority of people in the mainstream are not on the Internet as often as people like me, or other bloggers out there. It's still a relatively small group. As an author, I came late to the party in 2002, and I never would have done anything digital if an editor at a small press hadn't told me that it was time to start submitting my work as an e-mail attachment. Up until then, I had an e-mail account but used it for very little. I'd always submitted my manuscripts in hard copy and didn't want to change.
And now, working in digital publishing, most of what I do is on the Internet. Most people I know pay all their bills on the Internet now. If they don't, they'll be doing it within the next few years. The changes have already been implemented and we're not going backward. And with so many people now getting into social media, there are going to have to be rules to follow, rules just like we follow in every day life.
This article from The Independent in the UK is fascinating, because it gets into a good deal of what we're going to be seeing in the near future.
A mother who was tormented with abusive messages by so-called
online trolls has won backing from the High Court to have the identities
of those who targeted her disclosed.
The days of hidden identities and blatant game playing on the Internet are coming to an end. And it's about time. For too long people like me who don't hide their identities have been interacting with what can only be best described as blatant fakes. Please don't misread this. I'm not talking about authors using pen names. Authors have been using pen names for many reasons for years and there's nothing wrong with that. Actors use stage names, etc... What I'm talking about are the loud voices on the Internet that blog and comment and sockpuppet with outrageous names and vicious voices that are designed to intentionally harm and defame people. They bully and troll with more than one identity, and they do it because they know they can get away with it. It's happened to me once, where someone left a defamatory remark, not just a vicious remark. I complained to the web site in question and they did nothing about it. What happened to me online wouldn't have happened to me in a newspaper, where people are required to prove who they are before they comment. That's what living in a civilized society is all about. That's why there are legal ramifications with regard to defamation of character. And once it's on the Internet it's there forever.
Nicola Brookes, 45, faced "vicious and depraved" abuse on Facebook after she posted a comment supporting former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza when he left the show last year.
This clearly isn't the first time this has happened on the Internet. I've personally witnessed this "vicious and depraved abuse" in more than one place. And in almost every single case where I've seen this it happened because of Internet anonymity. I don't know if it's possible to enforce everyone using his or her own identity on the Internet, but I do think things are going to change now that the courts are going to start revealing the identities of Internet trolls and bullies. There sure are a few I'd like to see exposed.
Ms Brookes, from Brighton, East Sussex, said today: "I'm going for the strongest possible prosecution against these people.
"I want them exposed. They exposed me and they invaded my life.
"I didn't ask for it. They wanted a reaction from me and now they have got it."
She added that it was the "speed and viciousness" of the postings that first alarmed her, along with the lack of action by police, as she praised her legal team.
I don't blame her. I applaud her! I want to see them exposed, too. I not only want to see those anonymous freaks exposed, but I want to see more exposed. This exposure is even more important than fines, because when others who bully and troll realize that they can, and will, be exposed it will set an example and put an end to a great deal of destructive behavior on the Internet. Web sites where people can comment and interact anonymously have clearly failed in this respect. In many ways, they almost seem to enjoy the controversy caused by these anonymous trolls. I have seen Amazon comment threads that have roasted, defamed, and ripped people to shreds. And all these comments were anonymous. Not one single person had the guts to stand up and use his/her own identity. Not once.
What really bothers me the most is that there are still actually people out there who would argue about exposing these "vicious" trolls. They feel it's their right to maintain anonymity on the Internet at all times, so they can continue to do what they do without paying a price. I read a blog post the other day where the blogger slammed someone for exposing the online identity of someone who had been harassing her and I sat with my jaw hanging.
I don't agree there should be anonymity in many cases, especially when it comes to bloggers and web sites where ethics and trust are involved. As I learned in journalism 101: if you have something to say/write in public you should be able to stand behind your own name and identity. Or don't say it at all. The ability to stand behind your own good name is at the very core of being a good journalist, which often makes me laugh when I see SOME bloggers trying hard to be journalists but using fake names and identities to do it. They use excuses and say they don't want to reveal their real names and identities for security reasons. My take on that is if you're not tough enough to handle the ramifications of being vocal with a public platform, then don't do it.
But it shouldn't end there. It should be across the board, right down to social media for everyone. I know my good friend who owns a home remodeling business and has a web site would also like to see that the reviews he's getting online are left by real people, not anonymous fakes who slam him in reviews. They slam him because they are his competition and they are jealous of the business he's doing. It happens to him all the time, and he knows who it is and yet there's nothing he can do about it. It's happened to my mechanic, and even to my druggist.
Ms Bains, a partner at Bains Cohen, the legal firm which is bringing the action, said today: "The police do have the ability and the resources to find out who is responsible for this type of abuse.
"The order that was granted from the High Court was called a Norwich Pharmacal Order which is a disclosure order compelling Facebook to give us whatever information they have.
"We don't know how useful that information is going to be until we have it.
"It may turn out to be fake. If that's the case, it will be the internet service providers (ISPs) who will be most useful to us because they will hold the bill-payers' addresses and we will have to get a further order."
In other words, they are going after these trolls and they aren't going to stop until they get an identity and they get these people exposed. And I couldn't agree with them more. I know that if I were in the same position and someone started to screw around with me like that, I'd being doing exactly that same thing now that I know it can be done. It's time for some new Internet rules. It's time for the mom and pop Internet mentality of quasi snark and absolute disregard to stop. And I believe we'll be seeing more of this very thing in the future as more victims of Internet Anonymous Abuse start to surface all over the world.
If you want to read more, which I think would be wise, please check out the link I provided above to get the full impact of what's happening. These cases have been cropping up in small doses for the past year or two. People are tired of the abuse of power that Internet anonymity has created.