If you’ve seen the BBC news this week, you’ll know about Nicola Brookes who won a landmark case ordering Facebook to reveal the identity of her on-line bullies.
Speaking to breakfast news on Thursday, Ms Brookes explained how she’d been labelled a paedophile and a drug dealer, as well has having multiple bogus Facebook accounts created in her name. Her solicitors were also targeted by cyber-bullies.
What I found strange about the story was that the item didn’t actually feature a discussion about bullying. In a case of extreme on-line mobbing, the presenters restricted themselves to social networking right to privacy issues.
Is it just me or is Ms Brookes’ case not just a story about people’s right to privacy? It’s not simply a debate about the legalities of defamation claims. It’s not solely an interesting discussion about whether website operators are liable for libellous content.
It’s a story about how widespread bullying is. It’s a story about how a random and benign act can bring you to the attention of bullies and how there are people out there who will stop at nothing to destroy your life on a whim. It’s a story about how a terrible case of bullying isn’t going to make the national news unless it’s has some other exciting newsworthy angle, such as setting legal precedent or, forgive me if I sound cynical, it’s happening to a celebrity.
And I strongly suspect it’s a story about how the media are reluctant to overtly criticise or condemn cyber-bullies. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Lulz Security took over the website of News Corp. A different case with a different agenda, perhaps, but the power these anonymous IT savvy people have must be the media industry’s worst nightmare.
That’s the saddest story of bullying – people are often reluctant to criticise bullies too harshly, lest they’re targeted themselves.
So I’m behind Ms Brookes 100%. As I often remind people on Twitter, it may happen to many, but when it does, you’re made to feel entirely on your own.