Last week, feminist blogger Caroline Criado-Perez successfully lobbied the Bank of England to add a woman—Jane Austen—to the face of the new £10 note. In response, she started receiving up to 50 rape and death threats an hour via Twitter. Gross, but unsurprising in a welcome-to-the-internet way.
What's really surprising was Twitter's reaction to Criado-Perez's complaints:
The affair took on a wider context when Ms Criado-Perez, a blogger, said Twitter's response to her complaint was unacceptable. It had told her to fill out a form describing the offensive behaviour.
"If you're someone who's receiving . . . about 50 rape threats an hour, it's just not practical to expect you to go and fill in this form every single tweet. They're on the side of the abusers, not the victims, and they really, really need to get on the side of the victims," she told ABC Radio on Monday.
When she tried to report the abuse to Twitter's manager of journalism and news, Mark Luckie, he allegedly shut his account.
In belated response to Criado-Perez's complaints—and an online petition calling on Twitter to take a zero-tolerance policy to abuse—the social networking site announced that it was bringing its popular "report abuse" iPhone function to android phones and the web. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that a 21-year-old man has been arrested by police investigating the threats. Because, you know, sending death and rape threats is considered a crime most places:
The Metropolitan police said officers acting on their behalf in Manchester had arrested a man on suspicion of harassment offences. The Met said the arrest was in connection with an allegation of malicious communications received by officers in Camden last Thursday.
Criado-Perez tweeted that she was at a police station making a formal statement and there were "many more threats" to report.
I'm no longer surprised by people who respond to public discourse with threats of violence against women. Those people will never disappear. But, if effectively handled and contained, they're consistently ignorable, much like mouth herp. What does surprise me is how horrible social networking businesses like Twitter or Facebook are at handling these kind of threats. I mean, how many Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus gaffes do we need to suffer through before businesses stop ignoring this bullshit and hire PR staff smart enough proactively respond to this stuff?