The agency is working with solicitors Bains Cohen to handle a pro-bono brief on behalf of Nicola Brookes, who received a volley of abuse after leaving a supportive comment on the Facebook site of The X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza.
Just 24 hours after her post, she received 100 abusive comments and later discovered that the 'trolls' – anonymous internet abusers – had set up a fake profile using her name, image and personal email, calling her Cocozza’s drug dealer, a prostitute and a paedophile.
She also received indecent comments towards her daughter. Brookes was forced to seek legal help to get the site removed and is now going to the High Court in a bid to compel Facebook to release the IP addresses of her tormentors.
Byfield is lobbying to strengthen police powers after Brookes was told that the police were unlikely to be able to bring the trolls to justice. The agency has launched a media campaign based on research into internet abuse showing 53% of people have received some form of abusive communication.
This is the first private prosecution against internet trolls and will be highlighted by Byfield as a ‘test case to effect a change in future prosecutions’.
MD of Byfield Gus Sellitto, who is managing the campaign, said: ‘Urgent action needs to be taken to address a very serious and increasing problem of internet trolls. We urge everyone to support our campaign to effect a change in how internet trolling is investigated; how victims of this kind of abuse are treated by the authorities; and how the abusers are dealt with.
'We need a dedicated police unit to deal with internet trolls, as exist for other forms of serious abuse, and hope this campaign goes some way in achieving this.’