Twitter told to act after feminist campaigner abused

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Calls for effective policing of Twitter were redoubled after the latest controversy to hit the social media site. Feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez was subjected to systematic rape threats after her successful campaign to have a woman featured on a new UK banknote.

In the wake of the attacks, a 21 year-old man has been arrested, but the police response was belated and came only after the issue had been highlighted by politicians and campaigners.

Thousands of Twitter users have signed a petition asking Twitter to introduce a system that would allow immediate reporting of abusive tweets. Tony Wang, the general manager of Twitter UK, offered only vague reassurance, claiming that the company took online abuse seriously and asked users to report any "violation of the Twitter rules". In short, he wants self-policing rather than Twitter having to take any responsibility themselves.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, dismissed this as inadequate. "Despite the scale and seriousness of these threats, the official response from Twitter continues to be extremely weak," she told Wang, "simply directing Caroline away from Twitter towards the police, and, belatedly, directing users to abuse-reporting forms on Twitter. Social media platforms have a responsibility for the platform they give users. And in particular they have a responsibility not to tolerate this kind of abuse, rape threats and potentially criminal behaviour."

Criado-Perez reported numerous other offensive tweets to the police. "It's sadly not unusual to get this kind of abuse," she said, "but I've never seen it get as intense or aggressive as this. It's infuriating that the price you pay for standing up for women is 24 hours of rape threats."

It's an alarming example of the way that social media sites have become the new stamping grounds of aggressive misogynists determined to silence any progressive voices by using the crudest tactics imaginable. Unless the police or Twitter offer an effective response, many will boycott or abandon the site, leaving it to the barbarians.

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