Leading article: A bad day for faceless Facebook trolls

 

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The internet and social media are a boon in so many ways, but they also have a dark side.

The practice known as "trolling" can make life a misery for those targeted, and so long as the perpetrators are able to shelter behind the web's vaunted anonymity, their victims have little recourse. That could be set to change, following a High Court ruling that instructs Facebook to reveal the name, email and IP addresses of those who falsely branded a woman a paedophile and a drug dealer.

The judgment should open the way for many, many others who have suffered abuse on the internet to seek similar orders, and then bring private prosecutions against their tormentors. The best result, though, should be the deterrence of would-be "trolls". Internet anonymity can be positive, but the liberation it fosters also allows crude racism, sexism and vindictive personal defamation to flourish. Harassment in cyberspace is no less damaging than in real life, just harder to trace. If this area of impunity is now being blown open, that has to be a change for the better.

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