It's not an unfamiliar story - people on the internet can be jackasses. Why are people mean? Well, without delving into anything that would require a psych evaluation, one thing that people always point to is anonymity. On the interwebs, you're hidden by a big wall of protection - you're an unknown. That means that you can do and say anything you want (within reason), as long as you maintain an online identity separate from your real-life identity. Recent cases have challenged this truism, however, as "internet bullying" has become a job for law enforcement in some areas.
Now, one woman wants to force the hand of one of the internet's biggest facilitators of communication (both good and bad), Facebook. Nicola Brookes wants to force Facebook to reveal the identities of those who trolled her on the social network, so that she can pursue legal action against them.
According to the Telegraph, it all started when Brookes made a comment on the Facebook page of an X Factor contestant. Apparently, she went against the deluge of negativity and then became a target herself.
According to Brookes, she received hundreds of lewd messages and threats within a few hours. "Facebook users began deliberately targeting me, writing under my comment that I was a pedophile and hoping that I would die," Ms Brookes told the Telegraph.
As the messages got more personal, Ms. Brookes found that someone had also set up a fake account in her name, complete with photos and all. That account was reportedly used to send explicit materials to young girls on Facebook - some as young as nine.
Now, Brookes wants Facebook to reveal who set up that fake account. If that happens, lawyers want to use that information to begin prosecution.
For their part, Facebook says that they "respond aggressively to reports of potential abuse." They are clear about this kind of stuff in their Rights and Responsibilities statement.
Section 4.1 clearly states:
You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
Other clauses say that users "will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user," and "will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory."