It's been a bad week for women on the internet—but also a clarifying and validating one. British MP Stella Creasy began receiving rape threats on Twitter (in other news: fish are bonkers about water!) after expressing support for feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who was also being deluged with misogynist online abuse. Criado-Perez's crime? Advocating (successfully) for Jane Austen to appear on a £10 banknote. That, obviously, cannot be borne. Doesn't she know that money is man-paper!? HAS CRIADO-PEREZ NO COMPASSION FOR THE INTERNET'S POOR NERVES!?
After a Change.org petition and widespread outcry from prominent feminist voices including Caitlin Moran, Twitter has announced that they're working on a "report abuse" button for rape threats and hate speech. (Also, one of Creasy's online tormentors was actually arrested—a scene so cathartic I might have it drawn on top of a cake and then have sex with it.)
Via the Guardian:
Creasy used Twitter to inform the police of the threats, warn her abusers that she was logging their threats and taking screen grabs as evidence.
"You send me a rape threat you morons I will report you to the police & ensure action taken," she wrote.
...A [Twitter] spokesman said: "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.
"We don't comment on individual accounts. However, we have rules which people agree to abide by when they sign up to Twitter.
"We will suspend accounts that, once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules. We encourage users to report an account for violation of the Twitter rules by using one of our report forms."
Right. Well, we'll see. Unfortunately, the reality of attempting to moderate Twitter isn't quite so simple:
The danger is that "report abuse" button could easily be used against the people it's intended to protect. When trolls* created a fake Facebook profile for me during the Great Rape Joke Kerfuffle of 2013 (mostly to express how much I hate rape and love donuts, because comedy), and I attempted to have it shut down, my genuine account wound up getting reported and suspended in retaliation. At most a minor inconvenience, but needless and irritating nonetheless. The thought of having my Twitter account potentially suspended by abusers in retaliation for fighting back against my own abuse is profoundly enraging. On the other hand, though, this week someone created a parody account of my dead father to harass me because of my stance on rape jokes (still going on, because COOOMEDYYYYY). And you better fucking believe I wanted a "report abuse" button for that. I can see both sides—though mostly what I see right now is how hard the entire system is rigged to fuck women over.