Nadire Atas, a Canadian woman who wrote thousands of online posts defaming her perceived enemies, was arrested on Tuesday by the police in Toronto. She was charged with crimes including harassment and libel, a Toronto police spokeswoman said.
Ms. Atas, 60, has waged online war against dozens of people in recent years, falsely accusing them of being scammers, thieves, sexual deviants and pedophiles. Her targets included a family that employed her 30 years ago; her mortgage lender; lawyers she had battled in court as well as those who had represented her; and the family members and colleagues of those people.
The arrest and charges followed a New York Times article published on Jan. 30 that detailed her campaign of harassment and defamation, illustrating the destruction that one person can wreak thanks to the hands-off postures of big tech companies like Google.
Ms. Atas was charged with 10 counts each of harassment, defamatory libel and spreading false information with the intent to alarm, said Caroline de Kloet, the police spokeswoman. “This was a lengthy, complex investigation involving numerous victims,” she said.
Last month, a Toronto judge ordered Ms. Atas to stop her online attacks against 45 people who had sued her for defamation. But posts continued to appear about the plaintiffs and their families on sites such as BadGirlReports and Cheaters.News.
Ms. Atas, who has told The Times that she had suffered from mental health problems in the past, did not respond to requests for comment about her arrest.
The targets of Ms. Atas’s attacks — including Guy Babcock, whose family employed her at its Canadian real estate office — tried for years to get law enforcement to take criminal action against her, filing police reports in the United States, Britain and Canada, where her victims lived. The criminal charges filed this week are the first Ms. Atas has faced regarding her online posts.
Police recently became interested in the case, said Christina Wallis, a lawyer who has been involved in litigation with Ms. Atas since 2008 and was a target of her online attacks.
The day after The Times published its article, which quoted Ms. Wallis extensively, a site called GossipBlaze.com emailed her, saying it believed that Ms. Atas had “been spamming our submission form with tens if not hundreds of posts.”
“Almost all of them are from the same IP and we figured it might be helpful to pass you this info,” the email said, referring to an internet protocol address, a unique identifier used by a computer or a computer network.
Ms. Wallis shared the email and IP address with a group of victims who had previously contacted the police. One of them, Luc Groleau, determined that the IP address most likely originated from a computer at a hotel in eastern Toronto. Mr. Groleau shared the information with a lawyer, who said he had alerted the police to Ms. Atas’s whereabouts.
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