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Manchester man arrested after tweeting rape threats
July 28, 2013 10:24 PM   Subscribe

A 21 year old man was arrested for tweeting rape threats. The target of the tweets, Caroline Criado-Perez, had successfully campaigned to have a woman (Jane Austen) shown on the UK's new 10 pound note, and has been subsequently receiving incessant rape and death threats via twitter, a violation of UK law. Twitter's Terms of Service are being repeatedly and flagrantly violated in this episode, and the company appears to be having issues responding to a backlog of reports; it responded to Criado-Perez only that she take the matter to the police. This resulted in shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper asking Twitter to review its policies for handling abuse complaints.

The massive gathering of signatures for petitions to twitter for an improved abuse reporting function has been facilitated in part by use of the #shoutingback hash tag, popularized by UK journalist and activist Laura Bates, another woman fighting sexism online and off with her Everyday Sexism Project (previously).

#SHOUTINGBACK is an eight-minute documentary about the project, which I was torn between including here or making its own post.
posted by vira (128 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's certainly a good thing that this man is being arrested, hopefully this will lead people to realize that just because they're acting facelessly behind a computer doesn't mean they won't be held accountable for criminal threats.

On the abuse reporting side, is there a solution Twitter should be implementing to address this problem? I'm a twitter novice so this is a genuine question. I gather the volume of tweets is such that if even a tiny percentage were reported as abusive it would take quite a number of people to evaluate them all.
posted by justkevin at 10:44 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do find it interesting - the expectation generally seems to be that these companies, facebook, twitter, etc take steps to address abuse and harrassment. And yet, it doesn't seem we have this expectation with phone companies, for example.

Obviously, the difference is the public nature of the platform, and the visibility. Still, I can't help feeling sometimes that the platforms are often maligned as the last step, not the first.

Increasing their vigilance and responsibility is a fine enough thing, but there are still people sitting behind the computer, still discourses of harrassment that they participate in. Rather than Twitter, I can't help but wish the authorities - authority in general, really - would take harrassment a bit more seriously; indeed would be held responsible for not addressing harrassment/stalking etc in the way the internet holds Twitter et al broadly responsible.

I feel like as a society, we have a generally permissive attitude towards harrassment, and little is done to address that.
posted by smoke at 10:53 PM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Here is a constantly updated selection of varied NSFW threats received by a COD game developer for changing the stats for an in-game gun.

Graphic death threats online are banal and ubiquitous, to the point that makes me think that there is a substantial segment of the public that considers the death threat to be a vital tool in their communication repertoire. It's like trying to prosecute everyone who exceeds the posted speed limit while driving — it will probably take a total rethink of the situation.
posted by Nomyte at 10:55 PM on July 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


it doesn't seem we have this expectation with phone companies

Really? In my jurisdiction we do. (example from local telco).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:57 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


This paragraph is pretty much how I feel:

I think Criado-Perez has it right when she simply says fight back. Shame them publicly; judge them rigorously; never ignore them – but criminality? In the following circumstances, yes: when addresses and other private contact details are published; when private photographs are published; when the theoretical "you should be raped" becomes the actual "I will rape you". In other words, enforce the law.
posted by mannequito at 11:08 PM on July 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Indeed. The law should be no more tolerant of rape and murder threats sent over twitter than they would be if it were a letter in an envelope or a telephone call.

And every such arrest should be a newspaper headline.
posted by rifflesby at 11:13 PM on July 28, 2013 [18 favorites]


The video is an interesting mix of "this is my exciting project" and talking heads telling some pretty awful stories (much of which seems to take place on public transit if i understand correctly).
It will be interesting to see if it develops into political demands, or further action of some kind.
posted by chapps at 11:14 PM on July 28, 2013


On the abuse reporting side, is there a solution Twitter should be implementing to address this problem?

Ban the offending users, for a start. Assist the cops with prosecutions regarding the use of their service to make threats of rape and violence, as an ideal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:18 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


when addresses and other private contact details are published; when private photographs are published; when the theoretical "you should be raped" becomes the actual "I will rape you". In other words, enforce the law.

I think the bar can and should be lower than that. I realise this puts me to the right of many people on free speech, but I don't want to live in a society where people can say, "you should be raped" with impunity.

And I think saying "you should be raped" can constitute harrassment, and neither do I wish to live in a society where harrassment in any form is acceptable - or subject to mob rule in the complete absence of authority dealing with it acceptable.

The sad thing is, is that on paper, I don't live in a society where such harrassment is acceptable. But it's just so much lip service unless you have power.
posted by smoke at 11:18 PM on July 28, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm afraid that if Twitter gets a big ABUSE button beside every tweet, it's going to result in people like Anita Sarkeesian getting hit with thousands of abuse claims with every tweet. It would be nice to have, but the trolls are going to click the hell out of it.
posted by thecjm at 11:28 PM on July 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm afraid that if Twitter gets a big ABUSE button beside every tweet, it's going to result in people like Anita Sarkeesian getting hit with thousands of abuse claims with every tweet.

That's what human moderators are for.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:31 PM on July 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think the capacity is a much bigger hurdle than the will. The throughput on Twitter and other social sites is immense enough that human review is prohibitive. Twitter can't hire thousands of moderators, each as diligent as the ones we have here. As sad as it is, I really think it's either Twitter as it stands, with marginal operational changes, or no Twitter at all. This should not be considered my position on the desirability or decency of death threats in public discourse.
posted by Nomyte at 11:35 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not sure that we that the only two possible conditions are really a hypothetical "thousands of abuse claims with every tweet" and "constant harassment and daily threats of violence and rape" that are going on right now. Threats that Twitter claims are not a violation of their terms.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:39 PM on July 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


From the Guardian article: Cooper said more than 20,000 people had signed an online petition asking Twitter to allow users to report abuse directly with one click.

Harassment and threats should be reported to both Twitter and the police. And both should follow up on every legitimate report, if it's in the newspaper or not. But one-click abuse reporting would be, in the hands of these trolls, ripe for abuse.
posted by thecjm at 11:50 PM on July 28, 2013


Are these threats not illegal in the USA?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:57 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am consistently staggered by the appalling things people feel it's their right to tweet. Or, in this case, to arrange a campaign to send abusive tweets.* And here, over getting a novelist on a bank note. I know it's not really about that and more about their screwed up gender views, but still, I just keep coming back to that fact.

*i think it's also that which is increasing the outrage here. It seems clear this was a concerted campaign to which twitter was bizarrely slow to respond to.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:09 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hate Twitter. Though it doesn't, obviously, come close to a rape threat in terms of scary and repellant online behavior, there was a person using my photograph as *his* photograph on Twitter. A friend of mine on Twitter alerted me to it. I'm not on Twitter and don't want to be, but when I contacted Twitter several times complaining about it (kind of near-impossible thing to do, actually) I finally got a reply, to the effect that there's nothing they can do about it. The guy (who was posting really awful sexist crap and just generally really crass stuff) could use my photo, they said. For all I know he's still using it. Twitter gives me the creeps.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [18 favorites]


I'm with you, flapjax. (And your story is appalling.) Not a Twitter fan to start with, and really not a fan of their ultra-hands-off policies. They provide the platform, they should be at least partially responsible for making sure it's not being used to harass and frighten people.
posted by Salamander at 12:24 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Salamander: They have an abuse team, a method for reporting abusive tweets and a policy around banning abusers. I'd say that's showing at least partial responsibility.
posted by bizwank at 12:43 AM on July 29, 2013


Flapjax, that's utterly bizarre and SUPER creepy. Was there any connection between the two of you? Did you ever figure out if it was someone you knew in real life?

I feel similarly about twitter: creepy. With the appended "useless" tag. I've never understood why people enjoy using it. Unless you're speaking Chinese or Japanese, it just seems like the character count encourages vapidity and idiocy. Another thing I noticed, from the previously mentioned COD twitter troll shaming page, was that most of the people featured seem to be British. It's probably just a small sample issue, but I wonder if people across the pond don't feel more secure in making these horrible kinds of threats because they don't have as much experience with an absurdly para-militarized and waytooserious/abusive police force like us yanks do.

We all remember Justin Carter, right?
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:09 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


And by the by, WHY does the Guardian article not list the "suspect's" name? I have a friggin degree in journalism and can't for the life of me think of even a single moral conflict in naming and shaming this dude. Suspects get named all the time in articles in the states, even when it's a far more difficult thing to prove than "your IP address, your password-protected user account."
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:12 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Flapjax at midnite, are you in a position to serve a DMCA notice on Twitter for breaching the photographer's copyright in the picture?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:34 AM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


Have most people in this thread been living in some kind of sanitized fiberglass-insulated world? There are, at present, more than 30 tweets posted on the COD tumblr I linked, and that's just one guy working on one game. Now multiply that by many guys working on many games, and then multiply that by the number of things someone could get angry about on the internet. The war on angry people would be bigger than the war of drugs and the war on terror combined. Inarticulate angry people are the bulk of the internet.

It is simply impossible to overestimate the scale of this issue. Go check out YouTube: do you want half the commenters there served legal notices? High-quality moderation doesn't scale. No social network of any size has effective human moderation that is not susceptible to flag spamming. And you are certainly welcome to harrumph about character counts limiting your artful eloquence (seriously? people still complain about this? in 2013?), but you would have to be grossly out of touch to miss the huge uptake of Twitter and the very significant role it now plays in journalism and current events.
posted by Nomyte at 1:39 AM on July 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


My son was kicked off a minecraft server yesterday for saying "I'll get you back". He meant it as a joke threat to a friend, but it was taken seriously. While he sobbed on his bed, I explained to him how online threats can be taken in a very different way because there is no context. This was a valuable lesson for him - don't make threats, even if only for a joke, as threats are serious.

So, i guess that if a kid can be booted off a minecraft server for a simple threat, why aren't these people who sent death threats via Twitter immediately booted off and blacklisted from the Twitter system. That should be immediate. It should be a no-brainer.

And as others have said, serious threats, especially threats that imply violence etc should be taken to the police.
posted by greenhornet at 1:40 AM on July 29, 2013 [21 favorites]


Salamander: They have an abuse team, a method for reporting abusive tweets and a policy around banning abusers. I'd say that's showing at least partial responsibility.
posted by bizwank at 12:43 AM on July 29 [+] [!]


All of which are pretty pointless if Twitter doesn't implement them - as per flapjax's comment. That's a more partial level of responsibility than I'd hope for, really.
posted by Salamander at 1:40 AM on July 29, 2013


GoingToShopping: And by the by, WHY does the Guardian article not list the "suspect's" name?

Because the arrest has been made in the UK, under English & Welsh law, and it is Contempt of Court to name a suspect before they've been formally charged (and in some cases before they've been tried and found guilty).

Reason why it's Contempt of Court: because the mere act of naming them may prejudice people who will be named members of the jury. We have really strict laws over here that are intended to prevent jury contamination: the right to a fair trial is seen as having a higher priority than the right to free speech, in the limited period before the trial takes place. It may not work too well in the age of the internet, but the intent is good.
posted by cstross at 1:46 AM on July 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


Go check out YouTube: do you want half the commenters there served legal notices?

Yes.
posted by SollosQ at 1:49 AM on July 29, 2013 [42 favorites]


So, i guess that if a kid can be booted off a minecraft server for a simple threat, why aren't these people who sent death threats via Twitter immediately booted off and blacklisted from the Twitter system.

I recognize that sorting through the sheer volume of complaints would be difficult, but it's surely not impossible, and Twitter are just incredibly, incredibly slack about it. There are abusive (and I mean violent, racist, threatening) accounts on Twitter that have been around for years. There are other accounts that are in their third or forth iteration - the original, say, @arsehole managed to get banned, so they started up @arsehole_01 immediately, then a few months later, they were forced to become @arsehole_02... there are blatant spammers who hang around for months as well, despite however many thousands of people must have reported them for spam.

I'd like to try to put together a predictive model for working out if complaints about an account warrant further investigation - I'm sure it's possible, using some kind of Google PageRank equivalent system - if an account has a significant number of followers, and relatively few complaints about it, it gets "trustworthiness" points; if lots of trustworthy users mark a given user as threatening, then the claim gets investigated. Something like that has got to be worth a try.
posted by Jimbob at 1:52 AM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


It may not work too well in the age of the internet, but the intent is good.

I bet the whole thing is just an anon whispering campaign against these poor poor Twitterers.
posted by kmz at 2:01 AM on July 29, 2013


I'd like to try to put together a predictive model for working out if complaints about an account warrant further investigation - I'm sure it's possible, using some kind of Google PageRank equivalent system - if an account has a significant number of followers, and relatively few complaints about it, it gets "trustworthiness" points; if lots of trustworthy users mark a given user as threatening, then the claim gets investigated. Something like that has got to be worth a try.

Anything algorithmic you do in this regard can and will eventually be gamed. Sure you can continually tweak your algorithms, and that works better against spammers because they're in it for the money so you can at least make it not worth their while to keep up, but these folks are in it out of love hate, so I doubt it has the same deterrent effect.
posted by juv3nal at 2:10 AM on July 29, 2013


My sense has long been that sites with minimal moderation take that approach because it's cheaper than putting more effort into it.
posted by ambient2 at 2:13 AM on July 29, 2013


Beyond cheaper, heavy moderation discourages new users from joining, less users = less visits = less advertising money ... math.
posted by mannequito at 2:27 AM on July 29, 2013


I think the 'what should Twitter do about it?' issue is a bit of a sideshow really. The Shout the Fuck Back campaign is about not turning the other cheek, not making a joke of it and not just letting it slide.

What happened was that a woman campaigned for something pretty benign (representation for women on bank notes) and got massive seemingly organised campaign of intimidation over Twitter in response.

And still the advice of many people was to 'just ignore them' or to 'not give them the oxygen of publicity'. Or the evergreen 'get a sense of humour'.

She's also been accused of being an attention seeker, as have her 'privileged' female journo supporters.

The point is that this victim blaming rubbish doesn't do anything to tackle the problem or move society forward. Stop shouting at the victims. Shout at the perpetrators. And keep shouting.
posted by Summer at 2:39 AM on July 29, 2013 [26 favorites]


Sign me up for the I hate Twitter list. Like so much else on the Internet it is vapid, juvenile, and designed to be that way.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the bar can and should be lower than that. I realise this puts me to the right of many people on free speech, but I don't want to live in a society where people can say, "you should be raped" with impunity.

Saying "so-and-so should be raped" in the absence of any reason to believe that anyone will take that as a call to action is vile but probably not illegal.

But these remarks, made to the person in question are already illegal in many places because they're implied threats and harassment at the very least.
posted by atrazine at 2:50 AM on July 29, 2013


What happened was that a woman campaigned for something pretty benign (representation for women on bank notes) and got massive seemingly organised campaign of intimidation over Twitter in response.

Could that campaign have originated in 4chan?
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:55 AM on July 29, 2013


First they came for the trolls, and I did not speak out because ... actually I was okay with that, depending on the level of punishment.
posted by bonaldi at 2:57 AM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


High-quality moderation doesn't scale.

Be as that may, when we're talking threats of (sexual) violence, that's illegal. It doesn't become any less illegal because Twitter might not find it worth their while to action it in any way. They have a responsibility at the very least to co-operate with relevant authorities in cases like this. Further to that, if we can hold Napster legally responsible for people sending music to each other because it passes through their servers, we can hold Twitter legally responsible for hosting illegal threats, no?
posted by Dysk at 3:10 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


How to write a column on Twitter abuse (Helen Lewis)
posted by zompist at 3:10 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sign me up for the I hate Twitter list. Like so much else on the Internet it is vapid, juvenile, and designed to be that way.

It's a tool. It's value neutral. Just because it's misused by some, doesn't mean it can't be used well.

I have a professional account that I use to network with people and org.s in my field, trade links to relevant news articles, consultations, developments in the area ...etc.

And then I have a personal account, which I pretty much only use to trade wisecracks with my friends.

Neither one is infested with douchebags or rape threats.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:11 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


But these remarks, made to the person in question are already illegal in many places because they're implied threats and harassment at the very least.

Indeed, but trying going as the average person to the average police officer with it - they'll take about as much action as Twitter, at least here in Australia.
posted by smoke at 3:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that Twitter is now used by professionals and by companies. It is also still used by bored and irresponsible kids and adults who sign up for free accounts for a laugh.

These two worlds were set for an inevitable collision.

The solution is I think that Twitter should create a walled-off garden inside Twitter. They have already started doing it, actually. It's called verified accounts Right now, though, this is a service offered to celebrities. But why not offer it to everybody?

1. You pay a verification fee. Maybe $5. (Perhaps a yearly fee and you get limited support?)
2. You send them some form of valid ID and your account is verified.
3. Twitter works as before but you can enable "Verified Twitter Only" in which you only see messages from other verified accounts. If some unverified person really wants to get a message to you they can always relay it through a verified buddy.

Perhaps there are other similar solutions but the bottom line is Twitter is now a business tool. And businesses are willing to pay.
posted by vacapinta at 3:15 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perspective: When I was a boy> young man, in US Navy bootcamp, my company commander threatened to kill and rape me in a most crude and brutal fashion. And I was expected to be grateful for it! But I wasn't having any of it, he said the same to all the boys!

Difference is, he wasn't harassing. Anyone can say "I'm gonna get you!" and it is just a game. Say it every day, it's harassment. Pretty easy to discern the difference really. Get others involved, oh dear, it's a conspiracy, and now no one will believe it.
(edited out Freudian slip)
posted by Goofyy at 3:24 AM on July 29, 2013


Perhaps there are other similar solutions but the bottom line is Twitter is now a business tool. And businesses are willing to pay.

Thursday 6 June 2013: "Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP, the world's largest advertising company, has struck a global partnership with Twitter to exploit user data for its clients."
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:27 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine has been receiving regular death threats from serially generated accounts for some time now. She also uses twitter to stay connected to her industry, so straight up leaving or making her account private isn't really an option, and the serialized accounts mean that blocking doesn't work either.

There is a part of me that feels like this is a job for police, but the impracticality of that given the global reach of Twitter is disheartening.

Perhaps some form of user-initiated IP blocking?
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:28 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're working with the indie fringes of an industry, you could never go "Verified Only" because the sort of people who can't pay are your future collaborators.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:31 AM on July 29, 2013


Perhaps there are other similar solutions but the bottom line is Twitter is now a business tool. And businesses are willing to pay.

Right, but the businesses are there on sufferance. If Twitter became all about the businesses I imagine all the people who make it worthwhile would leave. I do like the idea of verified-only, but simultaneously I hate it, because a good chunk of what's best about Twitter is the mix of silly one-off accounts, genuinely useful news, and amazing things like the posts from the middle of revolutions. All of these would be at risk in a paid-for world.

Come to think of it, we already have a paid-for verified twitter: App.net. Where the tumbleweeds have tumbleweeds blowing through them.
posted by bonaldi at 3:33 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a part of me that feels like this is a job for police, but the impracticality of that given the global reach of Twitter is disheartening.

Of course, when it suits them, the authorities can take very decisive action. Just a reminder that this guy was convicted of sending a "menacing electronic communication" a couple of years ago.
posted by billiebee at 3:38 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the abuse reporting side, is there a solution Twitter should be implementing to address this problem? I'm a twitter novice so this is a genuine question.

Yeah. There should be a way to report it to Twitter so they can terminate the user's account, at least.

Go check out YouTube: do you want half the commenters there served legal notices?

Youtube already has a way to report abusive comments, with the ultimate goal being for Youtube to terminate the user's accounts, not serve them legal notices.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Go check out YouTube: do you want half the commenters there served legal notices?

Is that realistic? Maybe not. Would I like that? Yes I would.
posted by atrazine at 5:11 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Perspective: When I was a boy> young man, in US Navy bootcamp, my company commander threatened to kill and rape me in a most crude and brutal fashion. And I was expected to be grateful for it! But I wasn't having any of it, he said the same to all the boys!

Another perspective: hostile workplace
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:30 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Go check out YouTube: do you want half the commenters there served legal notices?

In a perfect world, I certainly would like them at least perma-banned from YouTube and the linked social network thingie (if any) they used to log into it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:39 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Twitter can't hire thousands of moderators

As the fellow said, "You should make a budget that supports having a good community, or you should find another line of work."
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:47 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a part of me that feels like this is a job for police, but the impracticality of that given the global reach of Twitter is disheartening.

Indeed, but trying going as the average person to the average police officer with it - they'll take about as much action as Twitter, at least here in Australia.

I do a fair bit of listening to the local police scanner, and there's hardly a evening goes by when I don't hear the (Australian) police go investigate a threat to someone made over Facebook. Facebook has more penetration, it's true, and more real names, and connections between users are more likely to be reasonably local. But police do investigate online threats. It's worth try.
posted by Jimbob at 5:54 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Think I'll go sue a paper manufacturer since somone wrote me a threatening note. Or maybe the post office. They provide the paper; should they not police it?

What a bunch of censoring crap here. It's the message not the medium.
posted by umberto at 6:04 AM on July 29, 2013


Think I'll go sue a paper manufacturer since somone wrote me a threatening note. Or maybe the post office. They provide the paper; should they not police it?

It's a crime to send threats via post in most jurisdictions. They do police it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


Think I'll go sue a paper manufacturer since somone wrote me a threatening note. Or maybe the post office. They provide the paper; should they not police it?

The difference being that the post office has no access to the contents of your message, and the paper manufacturer sure doesn't. We hold companies and individuals responsible for what they host on their websites all the time, whatever form of illegality it is. We expect image-hosting sites to identify and remove child porn. We expect file-hosting sites to identify and remove copyrighted content, fer chrissakes. Why should illegal threats of (sexual) violence be exempt?
posted by Dysk at 6:13 AM on July 29, 2013 [10 favorites]


Think I'll go sue a paper manufacturer since somone wrote me a threatening note.

Why would you do that? That makes no sense. You might, however, sue the newspaper that printed a threat against you on the paper. Or the flyposting company that used the paper to make posters that threatened you and put them up around town. Or the avante-garde art company that wrote threatening messages on the paper and made them into little paper birds and left them around the streets around your town.

No, you could go further: all these entities are committing criminal acts, and you can report them to the police!

Don't try this with the paper manufacturer, though, that would make no sense.
posted by alasdair at 6:15 AM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


What a bunch of censoring crap here.

What a totally off-the-mark comment here. "Censoring"? Hey, we NEED some *censoring* for this kind of shit.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 AM on July 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Sign me up for the I hate Twitter list. Like so much else on the Internet it is vapid, juvenile, and designed to be that way.

At under 140 characters this is functionally indistinguishable from a tweet.
(Q: Why do convicts love twitter? A: Because they hate long sentences.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


And yet, it doesn't seem we have this expectation with phone companies, for example.

Years ago when I was getting threatened and harassed by nightly 3am phone calls because I was out on local television, I was able to call the phone company, set up monitoring, contact the police and have them notified when the caller was identified, all of which - surprise - stopped the calls. There was a clear process for dealing with the problem; asking Twitter for more than "call the cops yourself" is very fair.

It's the message not the medium.

The rape threats violated Twitter's *own* terms of service - the terms of service Twitter itself wrote about how it sees itself operating. Take your "it's the message not the medium" simplistic silliness to them.
posted by mediareport at 6:45 AM on July 29, 2013 [11 favorites]


Charge people to use Twitter, charge them per tweet sent and received. Reduce the charges after one year's good behaviour. (Joke)
posted by epo at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2013


is there a solution Twitter should be implementing to address this problem?

From the first link: "The ability to report individual tweets for abuse is currently available on Twitter for iPhone and we plan to bring this functionality to other platforms, including Android and the web."

Yes, the potential for, say, sexist assholes to routinely report tweets from feminists as abuse is there, but in that case Twitter should have clear consequences as well. It's not easy, and lord knows Facebook's solution (outsourcing its monitoring to countries like Morocco and the Philippines where the social norms around men and women might be different) is hardly ideal, but it's a solvable problem.
posted by mediareport at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2013


The rape threats violated Twitter's *own* terms of service - the terms of service Twitter itself wrote about how it sees itself operating.

This is actually the crux of the complaint - these tweets violated Twitter's own terms of service, but at present, there is no way for a Twitter user to even alert Twitter to instances of violations of the Twitter terms of service.

Again, the complaint was not that people wanted a way to make Twitter take people to the police. The complaint was that Twitter was saying "our users aren't supposed to say [foo] or [baz]", but there wasn't any easily-located way to tell Twitter "hey, this guy just said [foo] and [baz]". Even worse, if you went through all the hoops and contacted someone, they didn't do anything.

It'd be like if the mods here suddenly took away the flagging option and removed the contact-the-mods form and erased MetaTalk, and when you finally contacted Mathowie or Cortex via some means to make a complaint about someone's Pepsi-Blue post they said "....so, what do you want me to do?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


if you missed the link up thread, you should really have a look. twitter says that "i will rape you when i get the chance" isn't in violation of their policies. what does reporting matter if an actual threat of rape isn't against how they implement their own rules?
posted by nadawi at 7:01 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid that if Twitter gets a big ABUSE button beside every tweet, it's going to result in people like Anita Sarkeesian getting hit with thousands of abuse claims with every tweet.

FWIW, a version of this has already happened, and been dealt with. When Anita Sarkeesian posted the first of her "Tropes versus Women in Video Games" videos, it was flagged heavily as offensive and was briefly autoremoved from YouTube. Once a human had looked at it, it was restored, and Sarkeesian's account has now presumably had a tag added that states that content uploaded to it is far more likely to be flagged as offensive than to be offensive - so, next time the takedown wouldn't happen until after a human views it rather than before.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:02 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Actually, in the same way that we now have spam filters, is there not an opportunity here for a Twitter filter? One which had blacklists of abusive accounts and could learn to recognise abusive content.
posted by epo at 7:12 AM on July 29, 2013


Wow, I'd missed that, nadawi, thanks. If Twitter continues to insist an account that posts "I will rape you when i get the chance" is "currently not in violation of the Twitter Rules at this time," there's really not much more to say.

Except directly, to Twitter: "Get your fucking head out of your ass."
posted by mediareport at 7:12 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hilarious cowardice from Twitter's head of journalism and news, who on being asked to comment by Criado-Perez, blocked her and then made his account private.

He poked his head out today with these tweets:
Last night I was singled out by a group in the UK over Twitter's policies around abuse (an area in which I don't directly work).

The comments I received turned abusive and I temporarily protected my account.

Thanks everyone for the support [No support to be seen anywhere - Ed]. Happy to be back on.
posted by bonaldi at 7:21 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


mediareport - jonathan blow posted a couple similar ideas last night that i thought were good.
Small modifications of Twitter might help. Like, if someone is blocked by a number of people higher than X% of their followers, just put all their tweets behind a fold. They still go out, but people know not to read them unless they really want to.

Also, let me set up a filter for what goes into that fold. Most insults I receive are from people w/ like 1000 tweets and 6 followers.
posted by nadawi at 7:29 AM on July 29, 2013



I do find it interesting - the expectation generally seems to be that these companies, facebook, twitter, etc take steps to address abuse and harrassment. And yet, it doesn't seem we have this expectation with phone companies, for example
.

At least in the past, phone companies took harrassing calls and obscene calls very seriously. If you agreed to press charges against the caller they would tap your phone to catch obscene callers. I don't know if this is true anymore, but there used to be an expectation that you are the customer and they are serving you.

That is the big difference. The user of social media is not the customer. The advertiser is the customer. You, as the user, are constantly made to feel like the customer because the social media company mimics many of the same structures that have long been used beteween servers and their customers (i.e., updated features for YOU!). But their corporate relationships are with the advertiser, they do not care about you, and as far as I can tell, the real-life fallout on the user -- from cyber bullying to rumor spreading to threats -- has very little place in the entire corporate and legal arrangement. Because you are not the focus of their profit.
posted by third rail at 7:43 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


A timely and interesting mini-drama on Twitter just now.

Some kid, with a real address and name, insulted Mary Beard on Twitter. I saw it. It was a vile, disgusting insult.

Some other user knows the kid and the kid's mother and offered to give Mary the postal address of the boy's mother.

The kid backed down immediately and profusely apologised to everyone. His account is now protected. Mary Beard accepted his apology and agreed to delete her tweets about the incident if he deleted his.
posted by vacapinta at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


At least in the past, phone companies took harrassing calls and obscene calls very seriously. If you agreed to press charges against the caller they would tap your phone to catch obscene callers. I don't know if this is true anymore, but there used to be an expectation that you are the customer and they are serving you.

I see it as more of a property and liability issue. Even if I'm not a paying customer of McDonald's -- maybe someone else bought my lunch, or I'm just sitting with a friend and not eating -- I'm in their space using their facilities. They have the right to ask me to leave, and I have the responsibility to behave lawfully and civilly and not break McDonald's rules. I also have the right to not be harassed there. If someone across the room stands up and threatens to stab me, and someone informs the management, I have a reasonable expectation that they'll take action.

If some neighborhood child walks across my yard and leaves a skateboard on my sidewalk, and then the mail carrier trips on it and breaks his leg, guess who's going to get the bill?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:57 AM on July 29, 2013


I'm generally pretty free-speech absolutist, but here, I take the line of the gun absolutists: Enforce the law.

Making threats by phone, mail, or in person is a crime, and you can (and will) be prosecuted for it. Twitter should be no exception. If someone says "I'm going to kill/rape you/your family", the police should be called, the account info should be subpoenaed, and the sender should get a visit from the law.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:15 AM on July 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a bunch of censoring crap here.

Censorship and free speech are government issues. No sensible concept of free speech would assert that anyone has the right to say anything anywhere at any time. Heck, I am a professor who teaches at a state school. I do not violate my students' free speech rights when I require their discussion to be a) on topic, b) civil and respectful, and c) relatively concise. Nor does a commercial service which chooses to ban a user for making rape threats violate that user's civil rights, especially since it is very likely that the service agreement prohibits that kind of speech.

I expect that people who want to make rape threats on the internet will always have a place to do that. It would be nice if the people who would rather not receive rape threats be equally accommodated.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:29 AM on July 29, 2013 [12 favorites]


I gather the volume of tweets is such that if even a tiny percentage were reported as abusive it would take quite a number of people to evaluate them all.

It would, but Twitter isn't even trying to moderate their network. I'll cut them some slack for not cracking down on every abuse, but they seem to expect to be let off the hook entirely, and well, hell no they aren't. I'm sure if they really tried, they could come up with lots of creative ways to squash threats and harassment that wouldn't take many resources.

I get the argument that those who tweet are the product, not the client, but the thing is Twitter is nothing without its users, and if we users get too unhappy with it, we'll leave. Maybe not now, when there's no real equivalent to Twitter out there and we need it to promote our own products, but at some point down the road when a similar and better social network comes along. And good luck trying to generate advertising revenue when your network consists of a bunch of shitheads tweeting rape threats, Twitter.

Just tweeted Caroline Criado-Perez that her campaign for the representation of women on currency had led to another far more important. Good for her for taking up the battle standard on this and forcing the authorities and Twitter to get moving on cleaning this up rather than just taking this filth.
posted by orange swan at 8:30 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the people who are saying, "Yes, moderating Twitter would be an impossible task, but Twitter isn't even trying to do that impossible task."
posted by straight at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2013


there is no perfect solutions, still there are absolutely better solutions than straight up saying a rape threat isn't against their policies. i don't understand what's confusing about that position.
posted by nadawi at 8:36 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know that deranged / malicious people don't have to have good reasons for their ugly conduct, and that their justifications are spurious. But I can't imagine the ideological headspace in which a guy would become angry enough over Jane Austen's presence on money to issue sexual assault threats. Perhaps he confuses seigneurage with the droit de seigneur.

It's like something that the contributors to World Net Daily would dream up: libertarianism is apparently only for the male gender, and includes said males' freedom to subjugate individuals of the female gender.
posted by bad grammar at 8:49 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand the people who are saying, "Yes, moderating Twitter would be an impossible task, but Twitter isn't even trying to do that impossible task."

Technically its not impossible, just extremely difficult. Saying something is really hard, so we may as well not bother at all, is what is aggravating.
posted by billiebee at 8:51 AM on July 29, 2013


The account that tweeted "I will rape you when i get the chance," @CoolDehLa, has now been suspended.

And again, Facebook uses human moderators in an admittedly imperfect attempt to deal with reports of abuse. It's not impossible for large companies to enforce their own terms of service. It just appears some of them need to be heavily pressured in order to do so.
posted by mediareport at 8:54 AM on July 29, 2013


High-quality moderation doesn't scale.

If you can't scale with decency then you shouldn't scale.

Why is this even a debate?

It's like arguing that you can't excessively speed without running over some pedestrians.
posted by srboisvert at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


The only people who are arguing that removing abuse from Twitter would be impossible are 1) "free speech absolutists" who apparently think abuse is ok to stay, and 2) those who seem think that the people who designed a system that handles hundreds of millions of tweets per day cannot possibly come up with tools to handle abusive behavior. This validity of this argument requires that all of twitter's engineers be really damn smart when it comes to building twitter, but just delicate flowers that wilt at the mere suggestion of including something like a "report abuse" button.

There is no technical impossibility here. If they can build twitter, they can build support to handle abuse. The only missing piece is that twitter has to decide they want to handle abuse properly.
posted by kiltedtaco at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter has never before reminded me of the NYT comments section as strongly as today.
posted by Nomyte at 9:32 AM on July 29, 2013


The only people who are arguing that removing abuse from Twitter would be impossible are 1) "free speech absolutists" who apparently think abuse is ok to stay, and 2) those who seem think that the people who designed a system that handles hundreds of millions of tweets per day cannot possibly come up with tools to handle abusive behavior.

So, I've been participating in the Libertarians Defend the Confederacy thread, and I had a little bit of an epiphany -- there seem to be a bunch of people who are generally focused very much on theory and who are also fairly privileged (enough that they don't "see racism" much or at all). They seem to think they are having a very honest, measured, and theoretical conversation about a thought experiment on State's Rights, and they seem honestly bewildered that people are pointing out that they are defending a bunch of racists, and that seems, well, more than a little racist. Their case is, of course, not helped by the large number of definite racists who are making pretty much the same arguments and hiding behind "oh, this is just theory."

In this case, we seem to have people who are free speech absolutists who are, it seems, mostly white men who don't really have to worry much on a daily basis about rape or death threats. And they are making what they think of as honest, measured, and reasonable (well, maybe a bit more heated than that) points and are annoyed that they get accused of furthering rape culture. Again, their case is made harder by the people who want to be free to make rape threats who hide behind a free speech defense.

I don't know what the answer is, but, I have to say, if you find yourself valuing the right to make rape threats over the right to not get threatened with rape, maybe you should think about that a little. Because, you know, rape culture is a thing that is built brick by brick.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:45 AM on July 29, 2013 [25 favorites]


"@Popehat I think we can count on a "Report Abuse" button on Twitter to be used as wisely, honestly, civilly, and decently as Twitter is used."
posted by Ambient Echo at 9:52 AM on July 29, 2013


It doesn't matter how people use a 'Report Abuse' button, actually. It is just extra data that Twitter can use. And you hope the geeks at Twitter understand weighted voting systems before acting on any of those numbers.
posted by vacapinta at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


It doesn't matter how people use a 'Report Abuse' button, actually. It is just extra data that Twitter can use. And you hope the geeks at Twitter understand weighted voting systems before acting on any of those numbers.


This only helps if the number of vocal (in the sense of hitting the button) non-jerks outnumber the number of vocal jerks. Which you'd hope to be true, but is still an assumption.
posted by juv3nal at 10:44 AM on July 29, 2013


if you find yourself valuing the right to make rape threats over the right to not get threatened with rape, maybe you should think about that a little

Amen. We (the collective we, not necessary here at MeFi) spend a lot of time arguing about people's right (or not) to say whatever the hell they want and whether or not a company or service should be involved in monitoring or restricting that speech. What about my right to not be threatened with bodily harm? What about my right not to have a complete and total stranger send me a message telling me I should be raped? Why is that person's right to say such things more protected than my right not to be verbally assaulted? Your rights end where mine begin. My right to not hear disgusting, vile threats directed AT ME outweighs forever your right to make those threats, whether they are legal or not. This, to me, is inarguable. The issue really is, what do we do about it? Until there is a line drawn, a firm statement of "This shit is not okay," it will continue. Whose responsibility is it to draw that line? The company hosting the forum for those comments doesn't seem to be a bad place to start. Saying "Oh, the issue is too big, the number of possible abuses is too large" isn't useful. It isn't so much the actual action taken that's important, but the implication of inaction - that it's acceptable, or at the very least, not important enough to even attempt to address. That's all the permission some people need, and it perpetuates a culture that excludes anyone who is offended or even harmed by those words.

I'm not expressing this well because it isn't my area, but man. This gets my back up.
posted by jennaratrix at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2013 [9 favorites]


bonaldi above - Wow. Has anyone forwarded this to Alanis Morissette yet?

Okay, so the damn song's 18 years old. People are still going on about it!
posted by Naberius at 10:53 AM on July 29, 2013


So, sounds like Twitter's Report Abuse button is just an extra link added to each Tweet. The same link. If you click it, it takes you to a page where you have to fill out a form.
posted by vacapinta at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2013


In this case, we seem to have people who are free speech absolutists who are, it seems, mostly white men who don't really have to worry much on a daily basis about rape or death threats. And they are making what they think of as honest, measured, and reasonable (well, maybe a bit more heated than that) points and are annoyed that they get accused of furthering rape culture.

THIS. The men who think this is all just a theoretical discussion about speech are blind to their privilege, specifically the privilege of being able to live with rape as an abstraction that happens to the Other (i.e., women and prisoners, basically), rather than being a part of the 50% of humanity who lives somewhere on this scale:
We are all different; still, every woman I know, from the moment she’s learned such a thing can happen, dreads being raped. Most of us walk through a dark house, building, parking lot, or down a deserted street, afraid of the shadows, of the strange sadistic man, lurking, stalking, plotting to pleasure himself by the rush of power he will get from our humiliation and the subjugation of our will to his. And then when it does happen—whether it’s a stranger or, even more likely, a person you know—which it will to an estimated one-quarter of the women in the world; when you are physically appropriated for someone else’s pleasure; when you smell him; when his hands and fists and weapons touch your body; when this man, whose intention is to take whatever he wants from you no matter how you feel about it, mimics postures and actions that have been shared before only in intimate consensual moments, a response to this sick perversion of intimacy does happen, even if it’s nonphysical and nonverbal: It’s a plea in your heart, Don’t hurt me; a begging, Please go away. Rape victims do not exactly remain silent during the rape. They’re screaming inaudibly through the whole thing.
Rape is not a theoretical possibility, nor just one of those difficult challenges of being alive that befall all people equally. It's the most violent expression imaginable of the notion that women are not fully human. Rape threats are a way of broadcasting this notion, and are designed to remind women that we should never dare to feel safe -- not in our own homes, nor in our own bodies.

That is what "free speech absolutists" defend.
posted by scody at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2013 [28 favorites]


If you click it, it takes you to a page where you have to fill out a form.

One thing the petitioners are asking for is fairly simple: if you click the report abuse button under a tweet, that tweet's info should autofill into the form at this page (click next to "Someone on Twitter is sending me violent threats" to see the rest of the questions).

But I'd ask for much more; that abuse report page that shows up when you click the "violent threats" box is strangely, unnecessarily off-putting. There's something that feels very odd to me about the way Twitter is asking the questions there:

Does the Tweet mention a specific time?
Does the Tweet mention a date?
Does the Tweet mention a place or location?
Does the Tweet mention you or a specific person?
Have you already blocked the person(s) involved?


How many of those need to be satisfied before a tweet counts as enough of a threat for Twitter to take action? Doesn't tweeting a rape threat @specificaccount automatically mean a "yes" answer to the 4th question? If you're getting hundreds of organized threats, do you have to block everyone? What if you don't want to block them so you can document the ongoing harassment for the police?

And then there's this cute little checkbox, after Twitter requires your full name:

I understand that Twitter may provide third parties, such as the affected user, with a copy of this report.

Really, Twitter? Holy fuck. Remember, this isn't just "someone's insulting me;" this is "someone just threatened me violently." Telling victims of that kind of threat that their full name will be shared with the person who threatened them, at the time of their initial report, is just appallingly insensitive behavior.

I dunno, seems to me there are much better ways to encourage people to think about how specific the threat is without making it sound like undergoing a third degree examination that also requires your full identity be given to the person threatening you with rape. Good lord. Twitter needs to talk to women who deal professionally with victims of violence and rewrite that page. It's an embarrassment.
posted by mediareport at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2013 [13 favorites]


Twitter can't hire thousands of moderators, each as diligent as the ones we have here.

Twitter is valued in the billions of dollars. If hiring thousands of moderators and paying the MeFi mods a squillion dollars in consulting fees is what's necessary to provide a timely, intelligent response to violent threats, then it had better do it.

It's no longer a tech company. It can't argue credibly that the Usenet toolkit of block/ignore scales to fit its scope: not in an environment where tweets are both public and made intensely personal through the @ system. If its reporting form is deliberately convoluted to dissuade vindictive reports, then that's just saying that Twitter isn't prepared to invest in backend resources that reflect what it is today.
posted by holgate at 12:13 PM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


heavy moderation discourages new users from joining

A significant chance of receiving violent threats might do the same.
posted by holgate at 12:28 PM on July 29, 2013 [8 favorites]


It appears that the organised threats have now spread from the original victim to an actual MP (Labour, Walthamstow) who defended her. Yikes.

I think we are about to get this taken seriously...

(as hundreds of women involved in technology, gaming, or atheism/skepticism look on from the sidelines and ask "What took you so long??!")
posted by Wylla at 12:54 PM on July 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Thanks for posting that article, Wylla. The most important quote in that article, and the absolute crux of the matter is this: "This is not for women to accommodate – it’s for society to stamp out."
posted by scody at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


heavy moderation discourages new users from joining

The new users who are turned off by heavy moderation tend to have a lot of trolls, spammers, abusive jerks, and multiple-fake-account astroturfers, all of whom drive away reasonable users. So what use lose in quantity you gain in quality and inclusiveness.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:30 PM on July 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, people posting all that nasty, objectionable content from war zones, uprisings, demonstrations quashed by police, etc.
posted by Nomyte at 3:31 PM on July 29, 2013


Also, people posting all that nasty, objectionable content from war zones, uprisings, demonstrations quashed by police, etc.

Why? Do these people frequently feel the need to threaten sexual violence against women they disagree with?
posted by scody at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


Graphic death threats online are banal and ubiquitous

To you.

Let's get all categorical imperative here, and ask whether you'd like to live in a world in which graphic threats of violence and death were actually banal and ubiquitous, and in which you, personally, received them 500 times a day? Say, one where your barista greets you with "next in line or I'll dismember your children" and you reply with "skinny soy latte, and if you use regular milk again, I'll follow you back home tonight and rape you with a bottle"?

Or are you saying that we're just not up with the dialect of a small group of young socially-inadequate men whose lives are defined by multiplayer gaming and online porn?
posted by holgate at 4:10 PM on July 29, 2013 [19 favorites]


Shouting back at Twitter rape threats by great Aussie writer Clem Ford
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:29 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Threatening to rape a woman is a terrorist act the same way burning a cross on a black person's front lawn or dangling nooses from the trees that line their street are terrorist acts.
posted by Pudhoho at 8:28 PM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even without rape or death threats, trolls can still harass and threaten in different ways. In the end, they have more time and resources on their hands.
posted by FJT at 11:07 PM on July 29, 2013


I'm just amazed at the sheer stupidity of these people, many of whom must be based within the reach of UK law enforcement to be so focused on Stella Creasy and the UK money issue.

They have actually continued to harass Caroline Criado-Perez AFTER she made it clear that she's reporting this to the police and after someone was apparently arrested, and then escalated the threats to Creasy - an actual elected official! - who also immediately and publically went to the police.

The people who have been tormenting, for example, female skeptics for years were getting away with it, and even had some support from the communities most important to them...but these guys are such obsessed misogynists that they are willing to continue to spew garbage, including specific threats of violence, even when it's clearly resulting in the real threat of arrest.

Mind blowing.
posted by Wylla at 11:56 PM on July 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's strange that some criminal acts (e.g., breach of copyright) are seen as worse when done with a computer, but other acts like intimidation and stalking have been regarded as mere idle chatter. I don't see that the use of a computer should make a bully's acts more tolerable: threats of violence have always been illegal, and prosecution, rather than merely banning accounts, is the right way to go.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:04 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


The people who have been tormenting, for example, female skeptics for years were getting away with it, and even had some support from the communities most important to them...but these guys are such obsessed misogynists that they are willing to continue to spew garbage, including specific threats of violence, even when it's clearly resulting in the real threat of arrest.

I think this would be a great time for some high-profile prosecutions. Of course it'll never be possible to go after everyone, but ten or so of the most egregious harassers being convicted in well publicised trials should have a desirable pour encourager les autres effect.
posted by atrazine at 2:05 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even without rape or death threats, trolls can still harass and threaten in different ways. In the end, they have more time and resources on their hands.

I don't get your point. Are you suggesting that, because determined jerks are going to be jerks, we should do nothing to make it more difficult for them? I mean, we don't fail to pull the driver's license of a guy with multiple DUIs just because it's fairly likely that he will drive without a license. Loss of a license is a threat that modifies at least some people's behavior. Actually losing the license deters others from driving and may encourage them to seek help. Similarly, persecution of online harassers may probably will deter other harassers.

Part of the problem of internet discourse is the old saw "person + anonymity = asshole." As the more egregious trolls see that, yeah, sadly, your identity is discoverable and you are liable for what you say and do online, others will be less emboldened to let their ids roam so freely, much the way that they keep their worse selves leashed when out in public.

Will it stop all harassment on the internet? Definitely not. Will it establish that rape and death threats are not an acceptable form of discourse, so knock it the hell off? Yeah, I think it will.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 AM on July 30, 2013


Via Billy Bragg's FB: "Laurie Penny nails the jerk from Spiked here by throwing his freedom of speech defence of online misogyny back in his face. She rightly states that the aim of trolls is to shut women up, denying them their right to freedom of speech through intimidation."
posted by scody at 8:53 AM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Another arrest today.
posted by pixie at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2013


don't get your point. Are you suggesting that, because determined jerks are going to be jerks, we should do nothing to make it more difficult for them

Nope, my point was that assholes can still insult and be mean without resorting to rape and death threats. It's not a blow to free speech to take those away.
posted by FJT at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


..and the harassment seems to have spread to another MP - Claire Perry, Conservative for Devizes, who supports Internet filtering. (This Independent article is very badly worded, and seems to suggest that Caroline Criado-Perez is the MP...but the reference is supposed to be to Perry.)

Looks like Twitter execs may end up being questioned by MPs about all this come autumn. This also seems to mean that online harassment is now being bundled in with the general Internet filtering proposals, since these planned hearings appear to be about "harmful content" in general, with all this tacked on.
posted by Wylla at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2013


Yeah - the problem here being that Claire Perry essentially has little understanding of the Internet or how it works, and as such is going to try to use this as leverage to push parliament towards legislating for Internet filters, which will of course have no effect at all on Twitter unless it just blocks it out of hand, and probably for further legislation restricting speech on the Internet. The rest of her party generally either shares her ignorance or is prepared to support such proposals in the knowledge that they are confused or unworkable in pursuit of a popularity boost.

The whole thing is something of a mess.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:27 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ.

Bomb threats made on Twitter to female journalists
Police are investigating bomb threats made on Twitter against several female journalists, including Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman.

At 5.50pm on Wednesday Freeman received a tweet from an anonymous user, @98JU98U989, which claimed that a bomb had been placed outside her home and would be detonated at 10.47pm.

She reported it to the Metropolitan police, who told her they were launching an investigation as the threat was an arrestable offence. The police also advised her not to stay at home overnight.

Grace Dent, a columnist for the Independent and former Guardian writer, received the same message as Freeman, which she took a screen grab of. It states: "A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10.47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING."

Although the user's account was suspended, several other women – including Catherine Mayer, Europe editor of Time magazine, Sara Lang, a social media manager at American non-profit AARP and journalist and doctoral student Kate Maltby – subsequently received identical threats.
posted by Len at 2:50 PM on July 31, 2013


Bomb threats made on Twitter to female journalists

A) I think my misanthropy just went supernova.
B) This here is an impressive level of self-destructive dimness. People are already getting arrested for this vile crap, Parliament is ticked. off. and you think the smart play is to set yourself up for a terrorism charge? You're so hubristic that you think you won't end up in an Uzbecki oubliette?
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:30 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


On one hand, it does seem mind-bogglingly stupid. But on the other hand, perhaps it's just the (depressingly) logical extreme of a society in which it's up to women to ignore or endure misogynistic behavior, rather than for misogynists to stop threatening women. After all, if these are men who have been getting away with this sort of behavior on a small scale for years (i.e., harassing women without meaningful consequences), why would it suddenly occur to them that they wouldn't get away with it on a large scale now? Maybe they sincerely expect that "can't you take a joke, you fucking bitch?" is a viable legal defense.
posted by scody at 8:02 PM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why would it suddenly occur to them that they wouldn't get away with it on a large scale now?

Good point, and of course, they very well might get away with it, as usual.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:32 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]




From the Lindy West article: "I'm sick of being told that I'm navigating my own abuse wrong."

WORD, sister.
posted by orange swan at 8:49 AM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


i fucking love lindy west.
posted by nadawi at 8:59 AM on August 1, 2013


From the Lindy West article: "I'm sick of being told that I'm navigating my own abuse wrong."

Yeah, this is a brilliant line. For another sickening example of this tendency, see The Trolls Come Out for Amanda Berry: "You don’t expect much beyond a gaping, misspelled void when you stare into the cold dark place that is Internet comments. But what’s appalling – if not entirely surprising – is realizing that the judging and shaming that rots the soul of online community goes that deep. It goes all the way down to picking on a woman who spent a decade being abused, because she had the nerve to go outside and be happy."
posted by scody at 9:15 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Police are investigating bomb threats made on Twitter against several female journalists, including Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman.

At 5.50pm on Wednesday Freeman received a tweet from an anonymous user, @98JU98U989, which claimed that a bomb had been placed outside her home and would be detonated at 10.47pm.

She reported it to the Metropolitan police, who told her they were launching an investigation as the threat was an arrestable offence. The police also advised her not to stay at home overnight.

Grace Dent, a columnist for the Independent and former Guardian writer, received the same message as Freeman, which she took a screen grab of. It states: "A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10.47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING."


There is so much wrong and awful about this - but the thing that is sticking with me is that Hadley Freeman is a fashion writer, and Grace Dent used to review the week's soap operas and write a smartly distanced report on Hollywood gossip. What kind of a crazy bastard decides to start his campaign of terror there?

"I may only get one chance at this before the feds get me. I must strike for all masculists everywhere. Let them know, let them say unto each other, that, even if I be made a martyr for it, I struck a blow against women being advised to avoid Capri pants!"

Fucking maroon.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:28 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


A nice piece (at least, I thought so) over at The Raw Story:

“...There is a sea of boiling anger out there because men are taught from a young age that women are here to serve, and then they grow up and discover that women often elect not to do that.


Some misogynists—the Rick Perrys of the world—calmly react to this realization by deciding that women’s rebellion is a temporary, feminism-induced insanity, and that the proper legislative pressure plus a good dose of condescension can return them to their natural state of servitude. Some men get a sick pleasure out of stripping away the “illusion” that women are equal and violently showing them exactly how inferior they are. The online troll population has these kinds of characters in it, but the dominant class is men who don’t get the level of sexual attention they feel entitled to from women, and therefore have concocted elaborate, dogged theories about how women are broken, because they cannot ever allow that women have a right not to like them personally. (Or that if they started acting like decent people, maybe they would actually be more likeable.)


All misogynists get upset when women are given attention for their talent or skills; it violates their core belief that women are here to serve. This is why writing on the internet while female means getting everything from laughably delusional men pretending to “critique” your writing while barely concealing their rage to rape and death threats. Particularly if your writing is not upholding the opinion that women are inferior servant class.”



Misogynist Trolls Have An Agenda, And It’s Not Lulz | The Raw Story
posted by magstheaxe at 8:02 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just don't read the comments for that Raw Story piece. :-/
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It might be nice if just one of these sites that recognized the problem of Internet trolling didn't also give the trolls an unlimited forum in their comments section.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:10 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Twitter posted a response on its UK blog yesterday; it promises the "report abuse" button for individual tweets will be added for Android and Twitter.com "starting next month" and says, "We are adding additional staff to the teams that handle abuse reports."

Twitter's UK general manager posted an apology yesterday, too, and has been engaging some of the responses: "I personally apologize to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through." He says he knows Twitter is a platform, not a content provider, but "platforms have rules of engagement and we are working hard on them."

A UK police spokesperson was also quoted in the Guardian: "We do not want to police the internet – that is not our role – but we will police credible threats and harassment against individuals."
posted by mediareport at 1:01 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]




Good for Twitter for making some semblance of an effort. Next step is to see how they deal with the next rash of Twitter-rape-threats to see if they can make good on their promises. Adding additional staff is certainly a low bar. Seeing if they can actually enforce their own guidelines will be interesting. And yes, platforms have rules of engagement. I hope some of that awareness rubs off on Reddit.
posted by jessamyn at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2013


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