4 Aug 2013

Opinion divided over Twitter trolliday protest

A number of high profile Twitter users are taking a “trolliday” today, a day away from trolls in silence to protest against abuse on the social network.

A campaign for 24 hours of silence was launched by writer Caitlin Moran under the hashtag #twittersilence with the aim of showing to “what Twitter would be like if the trolls over-run this place”.

In a post explaining her motivation Moran declared; “If a woman is getting fifty of these messages an hour, blocking all the abusers becomes something of a thankless, full-time job.

“By the time a woman has finished defending herself for her abusers, and actually gets around to doing what she came on Twitter to do – to talk, to communicate – she’s already exhausted.

“There’s nothing quite like being repeatedly told you’re violatable and worthless to send you to bed anxious and unhappy”.

The protest has provoked a storm of debate on twitter with the hashtag trending on Sunday morning.

Broadcaster Mary Beard revealed she received a bomb threat on Twitter just hours after the site’s UK boss apologised to women who have been targeted by trolls.

Ms Beard said she had contacted police after receiving a message last night claiming a bomb had been left outside her home.

I personally apologise to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through
Tony Wang, Twitter UK general manager

“Just got 1 of these messages. A bomb has been placed outside your home. It will go off at exactly 10.47pm and destroy everything. Told police.”

She later wrote: “OK all, it’s 11.00pm and we are still here. So unless the trolling bombers timekeeping is rotten…. all is well. But how stupidly nasty.”

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live she said: “There’s something very strangely and awkwardly insidious about it.

“It is is scary and it has got to stop. I didn’t actually intellectually feel that I was in danger but I thought I was being harassed, and and I thought I was being harassed in a particularly unpleasant way.”

Similar threats have been made to Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Europe editor of Time magazine Catherine Mayer.

Tony Wang, Twitter UK general manager, posted a series of tweets saying abuse was “not acceptable”. His messages came amid a growing debate over online behaviour.

He wrote: “I personally apologise to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through.

“There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment.”

The company has updated its rules to make it clear abuse will not be tolerated and put extra staff are now in place to handle reports of abuse.

A petition calling for Twitter to add a “report abuse” button to the site attracted more than 124,000 signatures.

Labour MP Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who successfully fought for a woman’s face to appear on £10 banknotes, were threatened on Twitter with rape. Two arrests have already been made in relation to those threats.

The anonymous Twitter accounts from which the bomb threats originated were suspended, although screen grabs were widely circulated online.

Scotland Yard said an investigation into eight allegations had been launched.

The force said: “Detectives from the Specialist Organised & Economic Crime Command have taken responsibility for the investigations into a number of allegations recently made to the MPS relating to allegations of malicious communication made on the social networking site Twitter.

“The Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU), who hold the police national cyber crime remit, is now investigating allegations made by eight people that they have been subject to harassment, malicious communication or bomb threats.”