A Texas jury awarded the astonishing sum to two victims of an intense online harassment campaign.
What’s the price of anonymous online trolling?
According to a court ruling in Texas, $13.8 million.
A jury awarded that sum to Mark and Rhonda Lesher, an attorney and day spa owner, respectively, following a three-year-long case against anonymous Internet trolls who had harassed the couple on Topix, a public community forum.
Their harasser—who called the couple everything from sexual deviants and molester to murderers and drug dealers—was actually an old offline enemy, ABC News reported.
In 2008, Shannon Coyel accused the Lesher couple (and a ranch hand) of sexual assault.
A court found the Lesher couple and ranch hand not guilty in 2009. But the accuser and her family were apparently not satisfied with the court’s verdict and took to the online forum to extract their revenge. Coyel enlisted the help of her husband Gerald Coyel, his brother James Coyel, and two employees of an auto parts store to harass the Leshers.
They proceeded to leave over 25,000 comments in 70 different threads under 178 different pseudonyms on the site. Their identities were revealed in 2009, when the court ordered Topix to turn over its user information, which included IP addresses.
“This vindicates us. This is vindication for all the scurrilous, vile, defamatory statements that caused us to be indicted, to be tried, that caused us to move out of town and my wife to lose her business,” Mark Lesher said to the Texarkana Gazette.
“You can’t post anonymous lies on the Internet without suffering the consequences.”
Photo by Jason Taellious
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