Trolling on Twitter: The Jane Austen Debate and Feminism

David Cameron has recently been campaigning for tighter rules to be put on Internet websites that will prevent child abuse pictures from being accessible to the public. There has also been a call for stricter rules on social networking sites after a woman was attacked by so called ‘trolls’ on the popular site Twitter last week, receiving tweets from a young man threatening her with rape.Image

The situation arose after the woman, Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner, had spent the week successfully campaigning for the Bank of England to feature the classic female novelist Jane Austen on the new £10 note.

When it became widespread news that a woman novelist was to grace the British banknote, Caroline received a torrent of rape threats and abusive language on her twitter account for supporting the idea.




ImageSince then, her followers and thousands of other Twitter users have demanded that action is taken after the abuse escalated and Caroline was threatened with rape by one male user. In fact, the worst of the abuse was from men, with one tweeting, “I will find you.” When another woman stepped forward to defend Caroline from the abuse, she became the next subject for the online trolls, who quickly turned on her.

 How has it become the norm for anyone – men, women and teenagers – to sit behind a computer screen and send abuse to someone else? It is bullying for the twenty-first century. For the majority of people, the internet is an amazing phenomenon that if employed in the right way, can help with work, socializing, obtaining information, buying and selling, booking and adverting… The list is never-ending. But for a small amount of simple-minded people, they use it to send abusive messages and belittle others without ever revealing their true identities.

 Perhaps that is just the way of the world, people have a good thing, but there are always those that have to go and spoil it. Or perhaps this isn’t something we should blindly accept. Some are now calling for Twitter and other sites such as Facebook, to add an ‘abuse button’ to aid people who are subject to threatening language. An online petition started a week ago had already received 15,000 signatures by only the next day.

 What do you think? Will adding an abuse button solve the problem? Or should move be done to tackle the issue of online-abuse? In this case, two men have been arrested for sending abuse to the two women. They have since both been released on bail. But not every man sending abuse will get arrested, and 99% get away with it, without any consequences. Some are arguing that by naming and shaming the men who troll women like this, any future employer doing research on them as a possible employee will come across the abuse they sent and it will harm their employability. But is this enough?

 What are your thoughts on the subject? Leave a comment and let me know.




2 thoughts on “Trolling on Twitter: The Jane Austen Debate and Feminism

  1. dreamingoflooseteeth says:

    It is a difficult one. There is a danger that adding a ‘Report Abuse’ button normalises the whole thing, and creates the illusion that it is something which is part and parcel of social networking. Though any threat made using internet technology should be treated as seriously as though it were via a handwritten letter or verbal. Whilst I’m sure these trollers don’t have any intentions of carrying out the threats they make, and only do so because they feel safe hiding behind their online persona, it’s still something that simply can’t be tolerated.


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