Facebook troll outed as policeman

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Social networks

Evil troll, courtesy of ShutterstockPolice have arrested an active UK policeman over the online hounding of a woman who forced Facebook to reveal the identity of her harassers.

According to The Daily Mail, Nicola Brookes, 45, was mercilessly attacked after using Facebook to write a message of support to a contestant on the X Factor.

After her daughter told her, last November, that bullies were leaving vile messages on the Facebook page of X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza, Ms. Brookes (who doesn't watch the show) posted a few words of support:

Keep your friends and your family close, Frankie. They’ll move on to someone else soon.

Sweet, yes? Unfortunately, the creeps did not, in fact, move on to someone else soon, unless you count Brookes herself.

Brookes said that over 100 nasty messages were left for her in the span of 24 hours, suggesting that she was a pedophile and should die. A sampling:

"Your [sic] a desperate pedo b****"

"Ur [sic] a ****ing dog"

Next, one of the thugs set up a fake Facebook profile in Ms. Brookes' name, including her photo and personal email address.

He/she then used it to send nasty messages to thousands of children, some as young as 9, according to The Daily Mail.

The messages described the 45-year-old Brighton mother as a drug dealer, a prostitute, a pedophile, and a known child abuser, while other messages tried to "Friend" young girls.

On Mother's Day, they published her home address.

Blurred computer user, courtesy of Shutterstock

When the single mother took the matter to police, marching in with an armload of printouts, they told her to go home.

Facebook's online complaint forms didn't even address the type of misery the trolls were inflicting on her, she said.

So she took the matter to the High Court.

In June, the High Court granted an order compelling Facebook to disclose the trolls’ names, email addresses and IP addresses - a landmark court order, according to news reports.

To Facebook's credit, it handed over the info with nary a peep of protest.

With that data in hand, police have now arrested Lee Rimell, 32, on suspicion of being one of the trolls behind the abuse.

Rimell, whom The Daily Mail believes is based at Stechford Police Station in Birmingham, hasn't been suspended from the police force.

The Daily Mail quoted Ms. Brookes as describing the arrest as a "significant breakthrough", though she said she was "horrified" that one of the trolls may turn out to be a policeman.

Her quotes:

It’s disgusting. Nothing surprises me anymore. I feel absolutely let down by the system. I’ve had to wait nine months for this arrest. I’m so happy that the authorities are finally doing something about this. My life has been ruined for so long.

Will things get better for Ms. Brookes now that one suspected tormentor is under arrest?

Hate on computer keys, couresty of ShutterstockLord knows. As it is, things only got worse for her after the High Court's ruling, with trolls setting up sites in her name, she said back in June.

One lesson to be learned here is that police aren't experts at cyber law or forensics, and - sadly - in some cases they shrug off victims of online abuse, probably with the sincere belief that there's nothing they can do.

Kudos to Ms. Brookes for climbing up the rung of law enforcement to find people who do know what to do.

Kudos also to the legal team fighting for her: it's all being done pro bono, given her circumstances and the particularly poisonous nature of the attacks.

It's nice to know that somebody stands up for victims, whether it's Ms. Brooke's legal team standing up for her free of charge, or her own, very compassionate, standing up for the X Factor contestant that started this whole debacle.

If you're on Facebook and want to learn more about spam, malware, scams and other threats, you should join the Naked Security Facebook page where we have a thriving community of over 190,000 people.

Further reading: How to deal with an internet troll

Blurred computer user, hate on computer keys and evil troll images, courtesy of Shutterstock

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10 Responses to Facebook troll outed as policeman

  1. Andy · 782 days ago

    To be honest with What I have just read about facebook it is high time that the law took control and punished individuals for abusive behavour on line. any such individuals found should serve a long prison sentence.

    • Mrs. W · 782 days ago

      How about Facebook itself? They prohibit this kind of behavior in many different ways, but have shown repeatedly that their Terms of Service have no teeth unless the violations harm their own interests. Sophos' own Graham Cluley had similar problems; he was only able to stop it through claiming copyright infringement. http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2008/04/28/facebo...

      The relevant bits of the ToS:

      You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.

      You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.

      You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.

      You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.

      I'm glad law enforcement got involved, because in no way should this person be a police officer. But Facebook had the power to stop a bully and chose not to.

  2. lowerarchy · 782 days ago

    I know Stetchford police station well enough - my aunt used to work there. An officer I studied with told me they flew drones from there until they got into trouble with the air traffic control people. I've been building up files on police abusing women and will blog about it very soon. Cheers

  3. Internaut · 782 days ago

    A "troll"? Originally, before Googlenet, when there was the Internet, a "troll" was someone that hung out in chat groups, forums, and IRC that would post something to entice an argument. "troll" as in trolling. Like fishing, one trolls for their catch.

    I would like to suggest that all companies that have a following of readers put out a weekly update on the changes to Internet, or Googlenet terminology, acronyms, and anythingware. Define "malware" for example.

    It is hard to follow a news item where the authors using 'privileges' throw in words that have an entirely different meaning than the standard. It seems today that a troll, is anyone that isn't nice.

    On the matter of the somethingnet BULLY, which he is and not a troll, should be treated the same as anyone else and let the courts deal with the criminal aspect of BULLYING. There is no law against being a 'troll' but there is against bullying!

    It would be interesting to know just whose computer he used to BULLY this woman and her family - his at home, work or both.

    I look forward to an updated SomethingNet dictionary.

    I

  4. Mark · 781 days ago

    Yet another, in a very long list of reasons to avoid Facebook.

  5. Guest · 781 days ago

    Lee Rimell is just the tip of the iceberg. Rimell abused, harassed and targeted many Facebook and Twitter users. He abused others with a gang of trolls which included Jamie Card aka the Cat Puncher, Julie Bardoe admin of There's one side to a story, yeah right and many other trolls. I believe Miss Brookes has done a world of good and trolling may soon equal a prison sentence. Considering that these trolls not only hacked accounts but also sent obscene messages to children whilst using Miss Brooke's photos and name, I think she has an excellent case for defamation of character and libel.

  6. Jack Wilborn · 781 days ago

    It's too bad that people have to resort to a court room just to find the problem person. I hope the USA is not so ignorant, but I bite my tongue. How can a company allow a flagrant ToS violations without even flinching? It is this kind of activity that causes the legislation of this country to pass laws that are seeming draconian with the violation of free speech issue. They (Facebook) may find itself the target of a lawsuit for failing to divulge or assist in cessation of these kind of activities and pay a large price for doing nothing. It used to be doing nothing kept you from prosecution, but today the 'looking the other way' may in fact end up putting you in the noose of the law. I hate to say it, but under certain circumstance I may be for it...

  7. Liam Burrows · 780 days ago

    Facebook is utterly, utterly useless when it comes to protecting its customers from abusive idiots like Lee Rimell and his mates - there's no denying that. I think it might be more important to them to be able to claim a huge number of Facebook users than weed out the abusers and fakes, which, by their figures alone are somewhere approaching 10%. There's loads of money to be made by convincing advertisers that 500 million people will see the adverts, and nothing to be made out of keeping a tidy house.

    But what Lee Rimell has been up to here is truly disgusting. How on earth have we gotten to a situation where members of our very own law enforcement service can be the ones abusing innocent members of the public on the Social media websites? Why hasn't he been suspended already? I'm appalled. And don't even get me started on the possibility (reported in the media) that he might also have been involved in email hacking...

  8. Jamie Lawler · 780 days ago

    From 'Gutless Guest' > ' I think she has an excellent case for defamation of character and libel ' . I think Jamie Card and Julie Bardoe have the same case against you, as you or anyone else have no proof of any abuse from them whatsoever. I trust this page logs I.P.'s , including 'Shane's' - the admin of Take out the trash page.

  9. joylilly · 691 days ago

    Internet trolling is completely out of control. I consider myself a kind person, but lately, no matter what I comment on, there is a relentless attack of the most hurtful, abusive childish garbage. People having unlimited access to "anonymous abuse" at everyone's expense but themselves is only going to continue to get uglier. I am so sick of the internet and technology, period. We got rid of cable tv four years ago. Maybe it is time to do away with the Internet as well.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.