Online Harassment Lawyer Explains Anonymous Internet Harassment
An online harassment lawyer understands that anonymity is a terrible ordeal for the victim. Being harassed is one thing when you know who it is, but it is even more difficult to cope when you don’t.
“Envy is one of the most potent causes of unhappiness” Bertrand Russell
Two of the most common issues that arise in Internet-related litigation are Anonymous Internet Harassment and jurisdiction.
Internet Harassment Law
Anonymous Internet Harassment and the ubiquity of the Web are just two of the many reasons why the Web should have its own distinct body of law. In my opinion, there might eventually be Internet law, just as there is admiralty law or the law of the sea.
JSC BTA Bank v Solodchenko and Others: ChD [Mr Justice Henderson] 05 August 2011
The case of JSC BTA Bank is relevant to cases related to the Internet because it concerns a client who wanted to remain anonymous, a common theme in online defamation and harassment cases.
In the JSC case the claimant, JSC BTA Bank (the bank), applied for disclosure of information and documents against a firm of solicitors. The solicitors were on the record acting for the 14th Defendant (who shall be known as X). The bank sought to trace and recover the proceeds of AAA-rated investment bonds with a nominal value of $290 million which it alleged had been fraudulently misappropriated by the 18th defendant and several co-conspirators.
The court granted a worldwide injunction against Xs assets because the bank had a good arguable case that he was a party to the conspiracy to defraud. X made no effort to comply with the order and was found to be in contempt of court in absentia, and made a committal order. The bank issued an application for disclosure against the solicitors, seeking disclosure of Xs contact details and assets.
The solicitors acted on his behalf and were able to communicate with him. Furthermore, the solicitors made applications on his instructions when it suited them to do so. As well as raising issues worthy of consideration where a client is guilty of contempt of court and in breach of asset disclosure orders, it also raises the issue of when a court will exercise its discretion to order disclosure having regard to the competing interests.
The application was allowed:
There was an inherent power under section 37(1) of the act to make any ancillary order, including an order for discovery, to ensure the effectiveness of any order made by the court if it was just and convenient to do so.
There was a clear distinction between a client`s right to claim legal professional privilege, which was absolute, and the right to protection of confidential information which was capable of being overridden by other considerations, where it was well established that confidentiality did not of itself justify non-disclosure of a relevant document or information.
Louise Bacon v Automatic Inc and others  EWHC 1072 [QB]
Another case, Lousie Bacon, raised the issue of jurisdiction and service by email. The case concerned the question of whether a defendant domiciled out of the jurisdiction can be served by email with a claim form issued in England?
In this case, the claimant issued proceedings against three US domiciled defendants. The relief requested by the Claimant was a Norwich Pharmacal Order. A Norwich Pharmacal Order is useful in online defamation and harassment cases because they can be used to obtain pre-action disclosure from third parties.
The jurisdiction to make third-party disclosure orders received its modern recognition in
Norwich Pharmacal v Customs & Excise  AC 133. CPR 31.18
, provides that the express powers under the rules do not limit any other power which the court may have to order disclosure against a person who is not a party to proceedings.
The court makes the order where three basic requirements are satisfied:
1. A wrong must have been arguably carried out by the ultimate wrongdoer;
2. There must be a need for an order to enable action to be brought against the ultimate wrongdoer; and
3. The person must have facilitated the wrongdoing and be likely to be able to provide the information necessary to enable the ultimate wrongdoer to be sued. Norwich Pharmacal Orders are especially useful in online defamation cases.
An individual or company motivated by envy, a grudge or good old fashioned competition may decide to start to accuse a person or a company through a website. The individual or company under attack may start to lose business or be shunned by friends as a result. The person under attack may start to suspect that a wrong has been committed but have no evidence of the actual scale of the wrong. Using a Norwich Pharmacal Order, it is possible to obtain evidence to prove the existence and scale of the wrong that has been committed. Obtaining the evidence can even be done without the wrongdoer knowing about it.
A Norwich Pharmacal Order enables a victim to obtain evidence and information from an innocent third party that is mixed up in the wrong such as an intermediary website or a hosting provider. In the Louise Bacon case, the NPO required the defendants to disclose to the Claimants solicitors the names and addresses and other information of the person responsible for publishing statements which the claimant alleged were defamatory. The High Court granted the order.
The second defendant, however, requested that a US court order be obtained and provided a website address.
The third defendant ignored all requests for disclosure.
The claimant sought permission from the court to serve the claim form out of the jurisdiction on the grounds specified in paragraph 3.1 of Practice Direction 6B (a claim is made for an injunction ordering the defendants to do an act within the jurisdiction, namely disclose to the solicitors the information sought).
The claimant successfully sought permission to serve proceedings by an alternative method to those set out in the Civil Procedure Rules 6.40(3). The claimant sought permission for email service on the defendants.
The judge found email service out of the jurisdiction effective.
It is crucial that there is evidence that the defendant has expressly confirmed that it will accept service by email. Evidence that the defendant accepts service by email can be indicated by expressly stating this on their website.
This article details the facts of legal disclosure relating to online harassment cases that online harassment lawyers and the public will find useful. If you are seeking advice on bringing or defending an online harassment claim contact us on 020 7305-7491 for a consultation and free quotations.