Privacy injunction online harassment. The case of DDF
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"When harassment occurs on social media we will obtain an injunction, anonymise our client and allow her to continue with uninterrupted use of her social media account."
This can be particularly beneficial if you are a celebrity or if you depend on the social media account for work.
Protection from Harassment and a privacy injunction obtained by Cohen Davis in favour of our client in the case of DDF v YYZ (unreported, 5 June 2015).
In the case of DDF v YYZ, Cohen Davis obtained an injunction against an unknown Instagram user who harassed and cyberbully our client via the social media website Instagram. Our client, who we anonymised in the court order, was working in the entertainment industry and was relying on Instagram for his work as well as for personal communications.
He had had many thousands of Instagram followers and having been harassed on social media for a long period of time, he decided to do something many celebrities hadn’t dare before him and to fight back rather than follow the routine police advice to suspend or close down his social media account. This decision had clearly paid off.
On this occasion, the online harassment against our client took the shape of a very large number of harassing messages sent through various Instagram accounts from an unknown user or users, including threats to make false complaints that he had committed serious sexual offences, and threats to disclose purported private information in the form of intimate photographs.
Before proceeding to discover the identity of the social media users who harassed our client through information, which Instagram had no objection to hand over, it was more urgent to obtain an injunction that will prevent further harassing postings by the Instagram troll. In a hearing, in private, on Friday 5 June 2015, Cohen Davis persuaded the court to make provisions to anonymise our client and to protect the court and hearing papers so that his identity can never be revealed.
The Judge, Nicol J gave an ex tempore judgment. The privacy injunction was granted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and it included prohibitions against further disclosure of private information about our client. Both the fact that we, at that stage, did not know the real identity of the harassing person, and the nature of the threats involved meant that it was just, convenient and appropriate that the injunction was granted prior to us notifying the harassing Instagram user of the proceedings.
Having granted the injunction, the Judge made an historic court order under CPR 6.15 to permit Cohen Davis to serve the injunction, the restraining order and any other legal papers on the harassing Instagram user via their active Instagram account through which we sent messages which contained texts and specially formatted images of the injunction.
In fact, this was the first time that a court in England and Wales, or in the wider common law world, had made an order permitting service of an harassment injunction via Instagram. Our client’s decision to allow us to obtain an injunction instead of simply giving in to the internet troll and closing his Instagram account had paid off as the harassment stopped and our client managed to continue to operate his social media account uninterrupted.