On Sunday night, U.K. police confirmed they had arrested a 21-year-old man on suspicion of harassment for posting death threats to a woman on Twitter. The guy had reportedly been directing his ire at Caroline Criado-Perez, a British feminist writer. Why was she targeted, you ask? Oh, you know, just for having the audacity to be awesome -- i.e., after she successfully campaigned for more female faces to be put on British stirling bank notes (Elizabeth Fry was recently replaced by Winston Churchill on the five-pound note).
So yeah, Criado-Perez’s public pressure seemed to work -- the Bank of England confirmed that none other than literary superstar Jane Austen would be put on its ten-pound note from 2017. But Criado-Perez’s alleged harasser -- and a legion of fellow trolls -- apparently didn’t like an uppity woman trying to promote the visibility of OTHER uppity women. They allegedly posted charming tweets reading things like “stop breathing,” “legalize groping,” and “no means yes” (apparently they collectively decided to expand their oeuvre beyond boring ol’ death threats, branching out into disgusting pro-rape territory, too -- thanks, guys!).
A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed the arrest, saying, "A 21-year-old man has today been arrested in the Manchester area on suspicion of harassment offenses. The arrest is in connection with an allegation of malicious communications received by officers on Thursday."
An arrest couldn’t come soon enough for Criado-Perez and the thousands of fellow fem activists who’d begun to take action on her behalf. She received a big swell of support over the weekend, with outraged feminists (and the kindhearted people who love them) banding together to sign an online petition demanding that Twitter introduce a “report abuse” button, which it shockingly doesn’t already have. The petition drew more than 40,000 signatures in a short timeframe, and a bunch of celebrities and politicians have suggested boycotting Twitter until something gets done.
Why the frenzy about instituting something as simple as a “report abuse” button? Criado-Perez claimed she’d been getting an abusive, scary tweet directed at her EVERY MINUTE, making it outright impossible for her to report each incident via Twitter’s online complaint form (the only complaint outlet the social-media site has in place at the moment).
For its part, Twitter hasn’t gone very far out of its way to respond, though Tony Wang, the general manager of Twitter in the U.K., did address the situation (sort of, a little bit) by tweeting,
“We encourage users to report an account for violation of the Twitter rules by using one of our report forms. Also, we’re testing ways to simplify reporting, e.g. within a Tweet by using the ‘Report Tweet’ button in our iPhone app and on mobile web. We will suspend accounts that, once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules.”
How sweet, right? Um, maybe not so much -- some people don’t think Wang’s statement is nearly enough, especially given the severity of the abusive messages Criado-Perez was receiving.
Yvette Cooper, whose job title is something called the “shadow home secretary,” (nope, I have no clue what that means, either), got especially (rightfully) peeved, writing to Wang to ask him why there was such a delay in responding to Criado-Perez’s fairly serious complaints. Cooper wrote,
“The response by Twitter has clearly been inadequate and fails not only Caroline, but many more women and girls who have faced similar abuse on your social network … I urge you to go further and ensure that Twitter carries out a full review of all its policies on abusive behaviour, threats and crimes, including more help for Twitter users who experience abuse, a clear complaints process and clear action from Twitter to tackle this kind of persecution.”Have any of you guys been the subject of online attacks or trolling? What’d you do to deal with it?