'Social media trolls should be more nervous than ever'
ANTHONY Seibold will return to Brisbane training next Monday armed with a list of names he can personally choose to sue for vile social-media attacks on the Broncos coach.
Seibold's lawyer Dave Garratt believes the Broncos coach is a test case for high-profile Australian sports stars and identities who are regularly subjected to brutal and baseless personal comments on social media.
Because of their sheer expanse, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have often been seen as a safe haven for social-media trolls.
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Not a day goes by that some NRL player or coach isn't defamed with disgraceful attacks from keyboard warriors emboldened by the belief their personal thoughts are immune to litigation because it's all too hard for victims to track down social-media perpetrators.
On Sunday, one rugby league fan labelled Queensland Origin Moses Mbye a "little c---" on Twitter after he had the gall to celebrate Wests Tigers' defeat of the Bulldogs.
Such disgusting remarks are par-for-the-course in the Australian social-media sporting landscape.
But the Seibold saga is compelling evidence the worldwide social-media net is closing and standards are being established.
After five minutes talking to Seibold's lawyer, you realise the power of cyber-security experts and the remarkable forensic analysis they can perform to expose some unemployed 35-year-old tapping away on Twitter in his mum and dad's granny flat.
With the financial help of the Broncos, Garratt engaged overseas cyber-security experts to look into the vicious remarks about Seibold's private life.
In less than a week, from 16,000km away in Europe, hi-tech hounds have compiled a hit-list of Seibold's social-media trolls.
Some, incredibly, have solid links to the NRL industry. Millions of league fans who delight in defaming NRL players they can't stand suddenly have every right to be nervous.
"The allegations against Anthony are ridiculous," Garratt says.
"But I think Anthony's stance could set a precedent.
"When you bring family into it and really malicious allegations against someone that damages their reputation, for sure there are grounds for defamation.
"It's getting to the point now where the days for keyboard warriors are hopefully numbered."
Since Seibold's decision to hire a lawyer and lodge a complaint with Queensland police, Garratt has been talking to European cyber-security investigators on a daily basis.
Each night, allowing for the time zones, he receives an update on the Seibold probe. Garrett is staggered by the in-roads they have made.
"They started with 300 leads," Garratt said.
"That's how widespread this (Seibold slurs) had become.
"They were given more information yesterday and went down a different path (of investigation) last night.
"The company is based in Australia but some of their employees are based overseas. The identity (of the experts) is so watertight I haven't even been told of their exact whereabouts or their full names.
"I have been having conference calls with a British special forces bloke, he is the main guy I deal with."
Despite the emotional turbulence surrounding his future at the Broncos, Seibold is determined to nail his social-media trolls.
"I'm expecting to have a final outcome very soon," Garratt said. "I have spoken with Anthony. Everyone thinks we are coming up with a smoking gun today (Wednesday) but that's not the case. My advice to Anthony and the experts is not to rush this.
"They are quite forensic in how they do it. They aren't committing any crimes by law or doing anything illegal, but they are watching people's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"They aren't breaking into people's phones, but they are watching chat groups and since it was reported that Anthony had engaged the cyber-security company, there has been more traffic on those platforms, so they are watching people talk.
"They told me that the day Anthony went to the police, one account was shut down and everything deleted immediately, including old messages ... but the cyber-security people picked all this up."
Big Brother is watching.
The next time a fan considers a racial slur, or abusing an NRL player like Mbye, they might think twice before hitting the send button.
Originally published as Why social media trolls should be more nervous than ever