A boy who suffers from epilepsy has won a major change in the law after he was targeted by trolls who posted flashing images on a website.
Zach Eagling, 12, was filmed walking around his garden as part of a charity challenge and a video was posted on the Epilepsy Society’s web pages.
However sick bullies targeted the page by posting flashing images causing a number of epilepsy sufferers to experience fits.
Zach, who was born with cerebral palsy, and mom Clair Keer then campaigned for a change in the law to protect children from harmful and illegal content.
And on Tuesday “Zach’s Law” became part of the Online Safety Bill, which was ratified in the House of Lords.
The new law, aimed at making social media firms more responsible for users’ safety, will force them to remove illegal content and protect children from harmful material.
Claire, of Liversedge, West Yorks., said: “I say it all the time, but I’m so proud of Zach and his achievements.
“When we started our campaign, I’m not sure that either of us thought it would go this far. So to know Zach’s Law is now an actual law is amazing.”
The youngster’s parents found out he had cerebral palsy aged three, following a brain injury at birth, which has affected both his mobility and cognitive development.
Claire later secured a settlement following a medical negligence claim, ensuring Zach has access to lifetime specialist treatment and therapies.
He became a target of internet trolling when he took part in a challenge to walk laps of his garden during lockdown in aid of the Epilepsy Society.
Zach, whose condition affects his mobility and cognitive development, completed 2.6km unaided in the summer of 2020, raising £20,000 for the charity.
But the Epilepsy Society’s social media pages were being targeted with flashing images.
The attack led to many of its followers reporting having seizures being reported, but nothing could be done as those who posted the messages weren’t breaking the law.
Now, as a result of Zach’s Law, such offences can incur a five-year prison sentence.
Claire added: “Zach was deeply upset at the online trolling and was determined to make it stop. He’s done that now and he’s over the moon about it.
“All Zach ever wants to do is help people, and that’s such a wonderful trait to have.
“We’re also both very grateful for all the support we’ve had pushing through Zach’s Law. It’s been a long process and a lot of work and effort, but it’s been worth it.”
Claire and Zach began campaigning for the legislation around online bullying and trolling to be strengthened.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell, who secured Zach his settlement, supported him and Claire during the their campaign.
Rachelle Mahapatra from the firm said: “Zach is an incredible young man and he continues to astound me time and time again.
“He has shown such courage and determination over the years and I had no doubt that Zach’s Law would be passed.
“Zach should be immensely proud of what he’s achieved.
“Bullying in any form is unacceptable and I’m pleased that the online measures are being tightened.
“Everyone, particularly people with disabilities who are some of the most vulnerable in society, should be treated respectfully and feel safe when using the internet. Zach’s Law is major step towards that.”
Clare Pelham, chief executive at the Epilepsy Society added: “When the Epilepsy Society’s Twitter account was flooded with flashing images and GIFs designed to cause seizures, 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.
“Zach and Claire have been relentless in championing our campaign and together we have won. Zach is a superstar.
“I would also like to thank the government and MPs from across the House who recognized the severity of the impact of a seizure on someone with epilepsy and have acted swiftly to bring these stealthy criminals within the jurisdiction of UK law.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker