A Toronto man named Gregory Alan Elliott was arrested and charged two years ago with criminal harassment for threatening messages he allegedly sent to women via Twitter. His case finally began in a Toronto court yesterday. If convicted, he could face jail time.
It's a heartening development for women whose professional and personal lives are heavily taxed by the specter of online abuse. Traditional law enforcement channels (not always on the cutting edge of new social media technology) often don't take internet-based harassment seriously, because it seems to exist only in an intangible playground and because our culture's "boys will be boys"/"don't feed the trolls" apologia is so aggressive. The line where online attacks cross over into real-life danger is muddy and ill-defined for most people—even, quite often, victims themselves. Is this real? Am I being oversensitive? Am I installing an alarm system in my house because some 13-year-old boy in Ohio is bored? How many rape threats is too many? Should I get a dog? Should I tell people why I got a dog?