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"Instagram" slander trial opens

Updated måndag 3 juni 2013 kl 14.23
Published måndag 3 juni 2013 kl 09.04
Demonstration outside the Plusgymnasiet high school in Gothenburg in December, Photo: Alexander Ehn/Scanpix

The so-called “Instagram” trial opens in Gothenburg District Court Monday. Two girls, aged 15 and 16, are accused of slandering about 100 fellow students on the popular photo-sharing website.

Last autumn dozens of local teens were outraged over sexual and other derogatory slurs on the site, and they vented their rage on the city streets. Police struggled to contain rowdy demonstrations at two local secondary schools as the search got underway to uncover the anonymous account holders.

One girl was wrongly accused at first. And as the date of the trial loomed police expressed concern about the potential for crowds appearing on the streets when the trial opened Monday morning.

But even though a number of young people were at the court, police spokesperson Peter Adlersson says there weren't as many as the authorities had feared.

"There are many young people involved in this case," he told Swedish Radio News. "But not many have turned up today, they know the trial is behind held behind closed doors, so it's been calm."

One of the teens has confessed to being behind the Instagram account, the other denies any involvement. They two are being accused of using the account to attach derogatory comments, mostly sexual, in connection with photos of the victims.

Around 45 victims of the net slurs will be testifying. Prosecutor Annika Boman says the case is an unusual one:

"I'm not aware of a similar case of this size, with so many plaintiffs," she tells Swedish Radio News. "Many of the victims," she says, "were strongly affected by the slurs and many still feel very affected today. Some have talked about suicide."

Sergio Dahqvist, a student at the Plusgymnasiet, one of the schools where there was a demonstration, knows two of the victims and says it's good the incident has led to court:

"I think it helps by establishing what is acceptable and what isn't," he says.

The police have had help in tracing the account from Instagram in the United States and from Swedish mobile phone service providers.

The charge carries with it a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment, but because of their age the teenage defendants would most likely face juvenile detention or some kind of community service sentence if they are found guilty.

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