It is important to keep copies of all emails, text messages, and online activities of a blogger or troll, for example, screen shots of any offensive blogs, Tweets or fake profiles on social networking sites. This can be used as evidence in any subsequent court proceedings. If you wanted us to investigate the matter for you and advise you as to your position we would ask that you send us copies of the relevant online activity and a short summary setting out any relevant background information.
Report to the Police
We have found over recent years that the Police are increasingly willing to investigate incidents of serious online bullying and harassment, and make arrests. If there is sufficient evidence to secure a conviction, the CPS may prosecute the individual(s) under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 "PfHA" (it is a criminal offence to pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment or stalking), the Communications Act 2003 (it is an offence to send electronic messages publicly which are grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character or send message which are known to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety) or the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (it is an offence to send an electronic communication which conveys a message which is grossly offensive where the message is sent with the purpose of causing distress and anxiety to that person).
Find out who is behind the abuse
It should be possible for us to find out who is behind the online activity either by asking the website to disclose the user's details or by finding out the IP (Internet Protocol) address which can be used to determine a computer's location. If the website does not readily provide this information we can apply to the court to obtain an order requiring the website or Internet Service Provider (ISP) to disclose the personal details of the subscriber. Once we know who is behind the online activity, we can take the steps outlined below.
Can I take action against a blogger based outside the UK?
Yes. It is possible to enforce a civil injunction or an order for damages against an individual blogging from outside the UK, provided the country they are in recognises UK judgments (many countries do).
Issue a "Cease and desist" letter
Depending on the seriousness of the online abuse a suitably worded letter from us asking the individual(s) concerned to stop or face legal action can often be enough to bring the online activity to an end.
How do I get the material taken down from the internet?
Offensive material posted online is likely to fall foul of defamation and privacy laws, the Malicious Communications Act and/or the Communications Act which will provide us with grounds on which to ask the websites to remove the content from their website. If the content is defamatory or private in nature this may also give rise to a separate legal action for damages to compensate you for the harm caused to your reputation and/or breach of your right to privacy.
We can issue a civil claim against the individual(s) concerned under the PfHA for damages for the anxiety caused and any financial loss resulting from the online harassment/bullying.
Seek a court order
If the activity continues, we can apply on your behalf for a civil injunction under the PfHA, prohibiting the individual(s) concerned from contacting you and others (whether by email, social networking site or otherwise) or blogging/tweeting publicly about you or encouraging others to do so. You need only show that the individuals concerned have undertaken a course of conduct which amounts to harassment. Harassment includes alarming a person or causing a person distress - there is no requirement of a physical threat or risk of physical harm. If the person carrying out the online activity is a family member (as we find can be the case in the context of an acrimonious break-up), we can apply for what is known as a 'non-molestation' order under the Family Law Act 1996 prohibiting that person from continuing with the offensive conduct or encouraging others do so.