A former UCL academic is to pay damages after harassing colleague for months online

Christopher Backhouse signed his colleague up for far-right hate groups and spread false pornographic images of her

Christopher Backhouse, a former UCL academic, is being forced to pay just under £50,000 to Dr Erica Smith, who works at Indiana University in the US, after harassing her for months online.

The high court found that he falsely portrayed her as a sex worker on social media, signed her up for far-right hate groups and fetish websites, and delivered adult diapers to her home address, reports The Guardian.

Smith has reported receiving numerous sex requests after Backhouse set up Twitter accounts with her phone number and fabricated pornographic images impersonating her. Backhouse then used these accounts to follow all of Smith’s colleagues, who then brought these sham profiles to her attention.

She said: “I have been applying for faculty positions and wondered if people on hiring committees would see these fake Twitter accounts and pass on my application.”

Smith also received multiple death threats between 9 November, 2020 and 25 May, 2021, and an attempt was made to trick police into sending an armed response team to her address.

As a result of the harassment, Smith reported being “stressed and afraid,” leading to trouble sleeping and concentrating. She called the police to her house multiple times after receiving threats, and purchased portable locks for her doors and a baseball bat in case her address was leaked.

Smith’s solicitor made a statement describing these acts as a “gross intrusion,” with the accounts “falsely [portraying] Dr Smith as a nymphomaniac, exhibitionist, and sex worker.”

During the investigation, Smith’s lawyer used legal tools to obtain related data from Twitter and Google. Documents from both companies pointed to an IP address in London despite Backhouse’s efforts to conceal his identity with global proxy servers.

Backhouse has yet to fulfil his payment of damages, and a UCL spokesperson confirmed to The Tab London that he is no longer employed by the university.

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