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Internet Victim’s Troll Fight is Backed by High Court

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.

Marine Pays Steep Price for Criticizing Obama on Facebook



In an incident that seems to have created an interesting controversy about freedom of speech on social media, in a time when so many feel so passionate about politics, Sgt. Gary Stein will not only lose all his military benefits, but will also receive an “other-than-honorary-discharge” from the service for posting something negative about the President on social media.

According to Huff Post politics, this is what Sgt. Stein posted on facebook:

The Marines acted after saying Stein stated March 1 on a Facebook page used by Marine meteorologists, “Screw Obama and I will not follow all orders from him.” Stein later clarified that statement, saying he would not follow unlawful orders.

Stein also made this statement:

“I love the Marine Corps, I love my job. I wish it wouldn’t have gone this way. I’m having a hard time seeing how 15 words on Facebook could have ruined my nine-year career,” he told The Associated Press.

You can read more about it

The Interesting Thing About Social Media…

I’ve talked about social media a few times on this blog, especially Facebook. I’ve been kicked off Facebook for no apparent reason and then put back on…without an explanation. (They do this to gay people sometimes, whenever someone complains about gay content of any kind, even if it’s a simple status update about gay marriage. Facebook isn’t a democracy.)

And, frankly, I’m not even on Facebook that much. I usually post something fast once in the morning and then once again later at night. Then I take a few minutes to check out what friends are posting; just to keep up and to see how everyone is doing. I honestly do look forward to most status updates. I like the people I met on all the social networks I’ve joined.

I’ve had gay friends kicked off facebook for no apparent reason, too. Some are authors who write gay fiction, others are gay people who just post information about gay events and trivia. I rarely ever see anything harmful.

But there is a good side to all this in spite of this drawback. At least Facebook allows us to pick and choose with whom we want to be friendly. You can manage your account so that you don’t have to read anything you’d rather not read. Which makes me wonder how deeply the hate goes for gay people when it’s so simple to just “unfriend” someone and never read their status updates again.

And let’s face it, we’re never all going to love what everyone is posting on facebook. With me there are two negatives: one is when people post political rants and the other is when people post religious rants. I personally go to facebook to socialize, not to read about politics. I go other places for that. And I certainly don’t go to facebook to read about religion…or disdain for religion. I have my own personal faith, thank you, and I don’t need to read about anyone else’s faith…or their lack of faith.

Sometimes I just “hide” people. I usually do this when they do annoying things. For example, one or two friends might be watching a football game on TV and they might be posting information about the game on Facebook every ten seconds. I’m thrilled they are so excited. I really am. But I couldn’t care less and I hide them so I don’t have to read a whole page of status updates about the game they are watching. You have to have good manners on social media, too, just like in real life.

And I have “unfriended” people, just like I’m sure people have done the same to me. I don’t know when it’s happened to me, because I don’t really care (it’s Facebook, seriously) and I’m certainly not going to take the time to go through my entire friend list. I used to feel guilty about “unfriending” people. And then I stopped feeling guilty when I realized it doesn’t really matter. You can rant and post about how proud you are to be an athiest all you want. But I don’t have to read it. You can rant about how much you hate Sarah Palin or Barrack Obama all you want. But, again, I don’t have to read it. I guess there are people who do care what your relgious or political beliefs are, but I’m not one of them. I just want to have fun on social networks. And I think that’s the main reason why they were designed.

I do think authors should beware of posting political or religious rants or opinions. You’re shooting yoursleves in the foot if you think people are going to buy your books if you piss them off on social media. And they have every right to feel that way, because we do, indeed, have choices.

Facebook and the LGBT Community…

I’ve been reading a lot about what’s been going on over at Facebook with the LGBT community. Gay people, including gay authors, are allegedly being kicked off facebook for no apparent reason and they are not being given any explanations from anyone at facebook. Some people are upset with facebook staffers, and are calling for Mr. Zuckerberg to do something about it. The people who are upset aren’t joking around either. These people are extremely frustrated and I have a feeling they’re going to continue to fight what’s been happening.

I’ve had my own interesting situations with facebook. And none of this is alleged: it happened. I was once knocked off for no apparent reason. My account was suspended without an explanation. To this day, I still do not know why it happened and a reason was never given to me. I do not post anything obscene on facebook or on any other social network. This blog is proof of that. I’ve never posted anything with nudity or made a facebook status update that would be considered offensive. In fact, I never post anything political because I don’t want to read about politics on facebook. And I’ve also been known to quietly unfriend people for posting too many political updates, especially when someone is bashing a political figure…left or right.

I use facebook, I hope, for what it was intended to be: a social network to interact with people from all over the world. I catch up with friends, we talk about books and publishing, and I’ve even made a few new friends thanks to facebook. And if I don’t like something I see on facebook I either hide all posts from that user or I just unfriend them quietly. With facebook, it really is that easy. This is the wonderful thing about facebook. You don’t have to read anything posted by anyone you don’t like. If you don’t like gays, you don’t have to be friends with them. All you have to do is click “unfriend.”

But there’s been a kerfuffle in recent months and the gay community is allegedly getting tired of it. Those who don’t like gay content of any kind are reporting gay people on facebook and facebook is allegedly suspending thier accounts for no given reason. I don’t know how true this is, but it’s what I’ve been reading. Evidently, all you have to do is “report” someone to facebook and their account can be suspended? But I’ve never reported anyone, so I don’t know how this works. But if I were Mr. Zuckerberg, I’d be watching closely to see exactly what’s been happening. Facebook is a wonderful tool, but there are a lot of people misusing this tool and they come from a mindset of hate and bigotry. We hear about how facebook is trying to improve our lives and our social media experience all the time when it comes to privacy. I’d like to see facebook set a few new standards when it comes to how and why they suspend facebook accounts.

At the very least, give a solid reason as to why an account is being suspended. I’ve started to see new LGBT social networks popping up in different places. And what a shame it would be if every single gay person in the world…because facebook is global…suspended their account and went somewhere else because of these alleged accusations.

Facebook Status Updates…

This is a short post about facebook status updates…in a general sense. I could be wrong, too. So if you don’t agree with me, please feel free not to pay attention to me. We all look at social media a little differently, and everyone has a right to an opinion.

Like most people, I don’t have much time to do facebook. I wish I did, but I’m usually there checking out my friends status updates about twice a day, usually five minutes at time. I was one of the first people on facebook when it started. I’ve always enjoyed it and I’ve even made a few nice friends there that I consider very close. So I take it seriously when I’m on facebook looking for individual status updates my friends have left. It keeps me connected to them in a very busy world. And I would imagine they feel the same way about my status updates.

But I will say that one thing that really irritates me is when I click over to facebook and my news feed is filled with status updates, one after the other, from someone I don’t know, and someone who has probably just started facebook and they don’t know what they are doing. It’s like I’ve never seen them before, and now, all of a sudden, they’re posting status updates a page long, about nothing of any interest at all.

There’s nothing wrong with posting one or two, maybe even three, updates in a row. I love to read new status updates from new friends. I don’t want to sound like the facebook police here. I would also imagine most people feel this way. But when people check out their news feed and they see that Betty Jane Bumpkin has left a slew of status updates about everything from her last trip to the WalMart to the plantar’s wart on the bottom of her right foot, it’s an automatic “Hide All By Betty Jane.” Maybe her good friends care. But most people don’t.

Unfortunately, Betty Jane might be a really cool lady. She might be promoting books I’d love to read, too. But because she slammed me with too much information about nothing of importance, I make a conscious decision that I don’t want to read any of her status updates.

People are far too busy nowadays to go through every single status update on facebook. And if they have over 2,000 friends, it makes it even more difficult. This bad habit of hyjacking facebook with too many updates has gotten so out of hand that I find myself doing searches for good facebook friends just to see what they are doing and ignoring all other status updates. And that’s a shame. Who knows what I might be missing?

And, like most people, I hate to unfriend anyone. But facebook has put that “hide” feature on there for a reason, and everyone uses it. They’ll never tell you. But they do use it all the time. And everyone uses it for a reason, too. So I’d be careful about going overboard on facebook, especially with long streams of status updates one after the other. What you think is going to help you get attention, might just backfire and make you invisible.

Not A Cool Thing To Do On Facebook…

This is a short and sweet post. And, I am not directing this to anyone in particular. When I harp about facebook and other social networks it usually comes from a discussion I’ve had with at least three or more other authors about social networking. And though we don’t always agree on everything, we did all agree on this one particular facebook rule.

If someone you don’t know well clicks “unfriend” and dismisses you, and you happen to notice they are missing from your friend list, do not contact them and ask why. And when I say “don’t know well,” I’m talking about facebook friends you’ve never met in person, aren’t related to, and probably never will meet in person.

First, it’s just not a cool thing to send someone you don’t know personally a personal message asking about why they unfriended you. It’s confrontational and defeats the purpose of facebook. If someone unfriends you they obviously have their reasons and you have to respect them. I’ve had people unfriend me on facebook and unfollow me on twitter and I figured it was none of my business and I let it go. And I’m sure there are more I haven’t bothered to notice. (Who really has that kind of time?)

I’ve also unfriended people on my facebook page, mainly for one reason in particular: they got into politics. My own personal rule is facebook is a place for social networking, not political networking (if you don’t agree with me, feel free to unfriend me). I don’t always unfriend; sometimes I just hide them from my feed. Not all political posts on facebook are offensive. Some are smart, well thought out, and you can learn something from them…whether you agree with them or not. I don’t mind those posts. But the ranters and zealots, on either end of the spectrum, turn me off.

And if someone doesn’t like what you’re doing or posting, they have every right to delete you from their list of friends. Of course you have every right to contact them and ask why, especially if it’s your next door neighbor, best friend for twenty years, or your Aunt Sally. But it’s not a cool thing to do if you’ve never met the person. Seriously.

Something Important for All Americans

I saw this posted on facebook tonight by one of my old friends, Norma Jean. And I thought it was important enough the share here on the blog.

We are asking everyone to say a prayer for “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families. They are fighting it out in Afghanistan & they have lost 9 marines in 4 days. IT WOULD BE NICE TO SEE the message spread if more could past it on.

In these troubled times, it’s important to remember the people who are fighting for our freedom.