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The Truth About Cyberbullying, Online Harassment

Living in the Age of the Internet has provided people around the world with conveniences never before seen. Ease of transacting business, communication that goes beyond physical borders and entertainment at everyone’s fingertips are just some of the windfalls of the Internet. However, the Internet has also given rise to cyberbullying and online harassment.

While cyberbullying is a term usually used for children and teens, online harassment usually pertains to adults involved in the act of attacking people on various social media platforms and websites. These attacks can come in the form of malicious photos and videos, as well as highly offensive statements.

According to Pew Research Center, statistics show that there is a significant increase in the severity of online harassment through the years. In 2014, 15% of Americans who experienced online harassment had to endure “physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment and sustained harassment.” In 2017, this figure rose to 18%, and climbed to 25% in 2021.

Overall, 41% of American adults experienced some form of online harassment in 2021; and 25% of them had to undergo severe online harassment. And this is happening around the world. The increasing presence of Internet trolls, online bullies who deliberately, aggressively and viciously attack their targets through posts and comments, can be felt at a global scale.

But despite these statistics, is enough being done in order to prevent cyberbullying and online harassment or teach Internet trolls a lesson?

Craig Wright, the Unexpected Victim

Public figures have long been the target of Internet trolling, cyberbullying and online harassment. The mindset is that it is okay to target them since it was their decision to become public figures, so they should know what they are getting into. There is a notion that privacy is something they have given up once they entered the public eye.

But what about those who were forcefully thrust into the status of a public figure? nChain Chief Scientist Dr. Craig S. Wright was outed by Wired and Gizmodo magazines in 2015 as the pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, and he was pushed into the spotlight against his will.

Wright personally admitted to being Bitcoin white paper author Satoshi Nakamoto and his copyright has also been granted. And since then, he decided to become vocal about how Bitcoin was being misused. He has become a controversial figure whose identity is continuously being questioned. Because of the disparaging nature of many of the posts and comments made against him, Wright began to sue his detractors for defamation.

Satoshi Nakamoto Defamation Cases

Earlier this year, blogger and podcaster Peter McCormack was found guilty of 15 counts of defamation against Wright by a United Kingdom High Court. But what BTC supporters focused on was the £1 nominal damage awarded to Wright and considered it a win for McCormack.

McCormack’s posts on Twitter include:

McCormack also made these allegations in a YouTube video, “Craig Wright is a fucking liar, and he’s a fraud; and he’s a moron; he is not Satoshi. He can come at me in the fucking UK, he can take me to Court; he can come with his—his fucking billions of dollars; I don’t give a shit, come at me. Sue me, I don’t give a fuck; you’re still a liar, you’re still a fraud, and you’re still a moron.”

Wright’s detractors forgot the fact that the UK High Court had already ordered McCormack to pay a total of £108,500 before trial even started. McCormack would also have to pay Wright’s legal fees, which have yet to be set by the court.

But what is actually more glaring about the Wright v McCormack case is the fact that McCormack gave up on the truth defense. To put it simply, his legal team abandoned proving that his statements against Wright are true, and instead focused on whether or not McCormack did serious harm to Wright’s reputation.

The act of abandoning the truth defense means McCormack really does not have enough evidence that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto and that he is a fraud. On the other hand, McCormack admitted that Wright “submitted a crazy amount of evidence that he is Satoshi.”

Just last month, a decision was made in the Granath v Wright case, wherein the Judge completely sided with the plaintiff. Magnus Granath is a Twitter influencer who goes by the handle “Hodlonaut.” In 2019, he posted a series of tweets calling Wright “trash,” “a fraud,” “a very sad and pathetic scammer,” “clearly mentally ill,” and “Faketoshi.”

Granath even started the “#CraigWrightIsAFraud” campaign wherein he encouraged his followers to use the hashtag. Granath himself used it even when his posts were completely unrelated to Wright. Granath then sued Wright in Norway, where he is a citizen, in order to establish that his statements against Wright were not defamatory.

Oslo District Court Judge Helen Engebrigtsen ruled that Granath’s tweets were “not unlawful” and were “not above the threshold for what constitutes defamation and invasion of privacy.” Although it is a clear win for Granath, Wright is still going to appeal the decision.

Granath v Wright is a lawsuit in which the main goal is to prevent Wright from suing Granath in the UK. Although Granath failed because there is an ongoing Wright v Granath case in the UK High Court, he still prevailed to win in his home country. In fact, Granath has already been ordered by the court to pay Wright a total of £303,000 plus VAT for delaying the trial. The UK trial is set for next year.

Wright’s case makes people question how victims can be protected from cyberbullying and online harassment, especially when it comes to public figures. Just because one is a celebrity or a public figure, does it make it okay for people to maliciously attack them online? Is the public entitled to voice their opinions against them no matter how vicious they do it and no matter how the target suffers?

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