Last week, the Bank of England announced that Jane Austen would be the new face of the £10 note. This caused jubilation for many who saw it as a victory for women. It also caused a very sinister reaction, as hordes of misogynistic trolls crawled out of their dark caves and logged onto their Twitter accounts.
Within minutes, Caroline Criado-Perez, the amazing woman who successfully campaigned to put Austen on the bank note, had received rape and death threats. Some attackers even believed that they had found her address and contact details and began sharing the information online. All of this in under 140 characters.
Now facing her seventh day of threats and abuse, Criado-Perez and her supporters have called for Twitter to review its policies on abuse. In response, Mark Luckie, Twitter manager of Journalism and News, reportedly ignored Criado-Perez’s message and turned his Twitter to private. Currently, Twitter allows users to block other users from making any contact with them—the virtual equivalent of telling a victim of abuse to just avoid their abuser. Many see this as insufficient and a form of victim-blaming and have called for Twitter to install a “report abuse” button on all Tweets.
However, some worry that a report abuse button will be, for want of a better word, abused by users attempting to silence any views that do not correspond with their own. Yet many others believe that moderators of the button will be able to distinguish between statements of values and misogynistic, racial, sexual and other forms of attack.
Because of the publicity received by the Austen campaign, police and politicians have been forced to take notice of the abuse, and currently, two men, ages 21 and 25, have been arrested in connection with threats directed toward Criado-Perez and also toward Labour MP Stella Creasy, who came out in Criado-Perez’s support.
Attempting to silence women is the nature of online trolling and misogyny, but Criado-Perez and others have refused to quietly go away. We stand by her and so can you: Send her tweets of support using the hashtags #TakeBackTwitter and #shoutingback, or sign the Twitter button petition. Let’s keep fighting to take back social media for women worldwide.
Photo from Caroline Criado-Perez‘s Twitter feed