A teenager who posted a death threat on Facebook, yesterday became the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site.
Keeley Houghton, 18, said she would kill Emily Moore, whom she had bullied for four years since they were at school together.
On her personal page, Houghton wrote of her victim: 'Keeley is going to murder the bitch. She is an actress. What a ******* liberty. Emily ****head Moore.'
Two days before she made the threat, Houghton had intimidated Emily, who is also 18, after spotting her in a pub.
Sara Stock, prosecuting, told Worcester magistrates: 'When Emily was sitting on her own the defendant came over and sat next to her and asked her, "Are you Emily Moore? Can I have a huggle?" Emily told the defendant to leave her alone otherwise she would call the police. Keeley then told her, "I'll give you something to ring the police about".'
Yesterday, jobless Houghton sobbed as she was sentenced to three months in a young offenders' institution after pleading guilty to harassment.
She was also given a restraining order banning her from contacting Emily in person, via the internet or in any other manner for five years.
People have previously been jailed for harassment and stalking on social networking sites but she is thought to be the first to be jailed for bullying via the internet.
Houghton, of Malvern, Worcestershire, had two previous convictions relating to her vendetta against Emily, the court heard.
In 2005 she was convicted of assaulting her as she walked home from school. Houghton was subsequently expelled from school. Two years later she was convicted of causing criminal damage to Emily's home after kicking her front door.
District Judge Bruce Morgan said: 'Since Emily Moore was 14 you have waged compelling threats and violent abuse towards her.
'Bullies are by their nature cowards, in school and society. On this day you did an act of gratuitous nastiness to satisfy your own twisted nature.'
The court heard that Houghton had told police she wrote the death threats while she was drunk late at night.
But when officers examined internet records they discovered Houghton wrote the comments at 4pm on July 12 and kept them on her Facebook page for 24 hours.
Last month, an inquest heard how a schoolgirl took a fatal overdose of painkillers after bullies waged a hate campaign against her on Bebo.
Megan Gillan, 15, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, swallowed the tablets to avoid a science exam after classmates posted spiteful messages on the social networking site.
She was found dead in bed by her parents after she failed to come down for breakfast on the day of the exam.
Her death prompted the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to criticise such sites, saying they encouraged teenagers to build 'transient relationships' that can leave them traumatised when they collapse.
The archbishop, who was appointed to the post in April, said the sites encouraged young people to put too much emphasis on the number of friends they have rather than on the quality of their relationships.
Emma Jane Cross, from campaign group Beatbullying, said yesterday: 'The sentencing of an 18-year-old girl for cyber bullying is the first of its kind in the UK and sets an important precedent.
'Cyber bullying is a worrying and fast growing trend which can be more harmful than typical schoolyard bullying.'
Drama on Facebook
Facebook is used by tens of millions of people across the world, but the way some users use the site has led to various dramas.
Last week, a picture surfaced of an alleged Facebook sacking, after an employee ranted about her boss online. He promptly replied, reminding her she had added him as a 'friend' before promptly firing her.
Meanwhile term 'Facebook Rage' is entering our language, often defined as feeling anger when a relationship breaks down and a former partner begins posting updates about their love-life.
It has also been used to describe users, convinced their other half is cheating, who spend hours stalking their partner online in a bid the find further proof to fuel their suspicions, deliberately searching for incriminating evidence.
Facebook was also in the dock a fortnight ago after a judge banned a gang of thugs from posting menacing photographs of themselves online.
In a landmark ruling, nine men pictured making gun gestures on social networking websites will be locked up if such images appear again.
Judge Clement Goldstone QC issued the ban while sentencing members of the Fallowfield Mad Dogs gang for affray. He was shown pictures of them pulling gun poses and talking about 'preparing for war' on a networking site.
Teacher Sonya McNally, 35, from Grimsby, is also currently suspended on full pay since calling her 13-year-old pupils ‘bad’ in a private conversation on the social networking site.