Twitter threats to British MPs stir row
Labour and Co-operative member of parliament Stella Creasy is seen in this file photo. British police said July 30 they were investigating violent and sexually explicit Twitter postings directed at Creasy in a growing row over threats to women on the social network. REUTERS photo
British police said July 30 they were investigating violent and sexually explicit Twitter postings directed at a lawmaker in a growing row over threats to women on the social network.
Stella Creasy, a lawmaker with the opposition Labour party, faced a stream of abuse after supporting a feminist activist who was targeted for campaigning for an image of novelist Jane Austen to appear on banknotes.
Another lawmaker said she too was receiving a barrage of offensive messages, while a man has been arrested and bailed over rape threats to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. Police arrested a 21-year-old man on July 29 on suspicion of sending malicious communications to Criado-Perez, whose banknote campaign culminated last week in the announcement Jane Austen would feature on the 10 note from 2017.
“This isn’t about Twitter, this is about hatred of women and hatred of women who speak up,” Creasy told BBC radio on July 29. “Twitter needs to be explicit that sexual violence and sexual aggression will not be tolerated as part of their user terms and conditions.”
High-profile women in Britain have long complained of online harassment but the issue reached front pages after Criado-Perez said she received “about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours” last week. She described how the online abuse had left her feeling “under siege” and terrified in her own home. “It has consumed my life both physically and emotionally. I’ve not really had much sleep,” she said.
Accounts suspended after Creasy's allegation
Scotland Yard said July 30 that police had received an allegation from a lawmaker about “malicious communications” over comments on Twitter. Creasy retweeted a series of tweets that included threats from accounts named “killcreasynow” and “eatcreasynow”, which have now been suspended.
She said she was reporting the abuse to both Twitter and police.
Lawmaker Claire Perry, from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, likewise retweeted a string of message including threats of sexual violence and one that read, “please disappear into obscurity and/or alcoholism. or die, whatever.” “I am tempted to shut down my Twitter account given the trolling going on incl. to me -- but that would be giving in,” Perry tweeted. Perry has been advising Cameron on his plans to introduce an “opt-in” system for blocking Internet pornography.
The abuse to Criado-Perez sparked a huge outcry among Twitter users and prompted more than 72,000 people to sign an online petition demanding the network introduce a “report abuse” button and review its rules on abusive behavior. Twitter has introduced a report button on tweets in its iPhone app and plans to bring it to other platforms. But some users say the form to which it links is too complex and time-consuming for those receiving a barrage of abusive tweets.
In a blogpost titled “We Hear You”, Twitter said: “We are not blind to the reality that there will always be people using Twitter in ways that are abusive and may harm others.” A senior police chief has said that people have the right to use Twitter and Facebook without being subjected to harassment and abuse, as he challenged social media companies to crack down on rape threats and other offences committed using their services. Andy Trotter, who leads on social media for Britain’s police forces, said that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter must have the ingenuity to make it harder to use their platforms to commit crimes.
“We want social media companies to take steps to stop this happening. It’s on their platforms this is occurring. They must accept responsibility for what’s happening on their platforms,” Trotter told daily Guardian.