Category Archives: internet trolling
Couple gets $14million after unmasking internet troll: or why it is so hard to unmask an internet troll
I don’t know why I have to find a source in the UK to get a story as juicy as this. News outlets in the states really need to get on the ball. This type of story doesn’t happen every day. It should be in every newspaper because it is interesting, and it makes you want to cheer! Instead we hear that the Kardashian’s signed on with E! for $40million over the next three years. December 21, 2012 cannot come fast enough. But I digress.
A Texas couple has won a $14million dollar judgment after unmasking an internet troll who was defaming them by calling them amongst other things, child molesters, drug pushers and sexual deviants on a Topix.com message board. From The Daily Mail:
The Lesher’s lawsuit investigation led to six parties being named as defendants in an amended petition….
They were Shannon Coyel, the couple’s accuser from the original criminal trial in 2008, her husband Gerald Coyel and his brother James Coyel.
Finding in the Lesher’s favour the court has ordered Jerry Coyel to pay Mark Lesher $5.1 million for mental anguish and loss of his reputation.
It also ordered Shannon Coyel and Charlie Doesher to pay $1.7 million to Mr Lesher, according to the jury.
Furthermore, Jerry Coyel was ordered to pay Rhonda Lesher $3.169 million for mental anguish, loss of her reputation and the loss of her beauty salon business in Clarksville.
Also, it compelled Shannon Coyel and Charlie Doesher to pay Mrs Lesher $1.056 million each.
Neither the Coyels or the Doeshers could be reached for a comment.
The jury in the defamation lawsuit heard that since the ultimately unfounded rape allegations were heard in 2008, a total of 25,000 comments on 70 threads on Topix message boards were posted onto the Internet.
This case illustrates how difficult it is to go after anonymous trolls. First you have to find out who the troll is. If the troll is linked to a domain name, you can look them up on Whois.com, however, if they have any savvy whatsoever, they used a third party source to register the domain name. Third party sources are often under confidentiality not to reveal their sources. The only way to get them to do so is via a court order.
Yes, at the very outset, even before you know if you can get a judgment from the defendant, you need to go to court to find out who the defendant is, and going to court can get expensive. This is why I only take these types of cases when I am paid at least something up front.
The attorney files a lawsuit with an unnamed “John Doe” defendant. It is then up to the attorney to find out who the defendant is, and often times there is only a window of opportunity to do so. The attorney can get a court order to compel the domain name registrar, or the third party source to reveal the name of the party. However, you now have jurisdictional issues if say, the case is filed in Oklahoma, and the third party registrar is in, say Arizona.
If the anonymous source is merely an IP address it can get even harder. The lawyer then has to hire a computer forensics expert to search for the defendant, and that too can get very costly. By the way, the cost for the forensic expert would need to be paid upfront as well.
This is pretty much why it is difficult to see this sort of case to then end. It can be very difficult and very expensive. But if you can get a $14million judgment out of it, more power to you!