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Courageous schoolboy Zach Eagling celebrates new law to shut down online trolls

NewsCourageous schoolboy Zach Eagling celebrates new law to shut down online trolls

The 12-year-old – who has epilepsy – said he wanted to achieve even greater things after Parliament passed his proposal to criminalise web attacks on people with the condition.

Zach launched his crusade after “epilepsy trolls” tried to trigger seizures by sending flashing messages to the social media page for a charity fundraising walk he did.

But backed by the Epilepsy Society, his mum Claire Keer, and the Daily Express, he campaigned for three years to have the life-threatening abuse made a criminal offence.

His sterling efforts were rewarded on Tuesday when the Lords approved the Online Safety Bill, including an amendment which outlaws “epilepsy trolling”.

Zach said yesterday:  “If I can do this at 12, what else can I achieve – thank you to all the MPs and everyone who has supported me.”

Claire, 41, of Hartshead, West Yorks., said: “I could not be prouder of what Zach has achieved. He has taken on the internet trolls and won.

“He has taken time out of school to meet with politicians, policy makers and the media.

“He has done it for everyone with epilepsy who wants to be able to enjoy social media without fear of attack. Today we can finally say social media is a safer place.

“The internet trolls cannot hide because the game is up. The law has caught up with them.” Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Epilepsy Society added: “This is an historic day for everyone with epilepsy. 

“It is life-affirming today to be celebrating the enactment of the Online Safety Bill which includes a new law – Zach’s Law. “Zach and his mum, Claire Keer have been relentless in championing our campaign and together we have won. 

“Zach is a superstar. But I would also like to thank the government and MPs from across the House who recognised the severity of the impact of a seizure on someone with epilepsy.”

Kim Leadbeater, the family’s MP and a major supporter of the campaign, included the Daily Express in her roll of honour for those who got the bill through.

Zach, who also has cerebral palsy, was just eight years old when he wanted to raise money for the society by emulating his hero, the late Sir Tom Moore.

Like the £33 million NHS fundraiser, he walked laps of his garden unaided, and ended up pulling in more than £20,000. But the May 2020 event’s social media account was bombarded by flashing messages, images and GIFs, as the cruel abusers attacked him and his followers.

The Epilepsy Society chief said: “We felt helpless in trying to stop them.  “The trolls were operating beyond the reach of the law because the law, written in the time of typewriters and printer’s ink, had not kept pace with the digital world.”

The new law makes it an offence, punishable by up to five years’ prison, to deliberately troll people with epilepsy in an attempt to cause seizures.

Social media companies will also face heavy penalties if they fail to prevent offenders continuing the abuse. Zach’s mum added: “I would like to thank everyone who has relentlessly backed Zach in this campaign, including many MPs from across all the parties. 

“And of course, the Epilepsy Society for their determination to make the world a safer place for people with epilepsy.”

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