This is an article that appeared in The Times this week as the trolls on twitter debate reached fever pitch.
I am pleased that the man allegedly abusing Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado Perez has been arrested but that is only part of the issue dealt with.
“The furore over the harassment of women on Twitter risks overshadowing the plight of victims of violence in the real world, the dotcom millionaire Martha Lane Fox has warned.
Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho welcomed the debate over how to tackle threatening behaviour against women online, but said the wider issues were in danger of being drowned out by the “cacophony of noise about social media”.
She said that there was no technological cure for misogyny, arguing that true progress could never be made unless equal outrage and attention were extended to those who suffered physical and verbal abuse at their homes and workplaces.
“At the root of the problem is the sexism, both explicit and implicit, that is still rampant in this country. That’s the bottom line. We need to flush it out.
“It would be a great shame if the debate was restricted to a cacophony of noise about social media. We really do need to keep more focus on all the women who face harmful situations and actual violence against them. The debate must be focused on both ends of the spectrum,” she said.
The peer, who founded lastminute.com, said that she too had been subjected to vile and offensive abuse online. She said that she had been astonished by “the outpouring of viciousness” when her company’s share price fell.
“Twerps called me a bitch and a c**t, and said things like ‘s**k me off baby’,” recalled Lady Lane-Fox, 40, who is now the Government’s Digital Champion. “It didn’t make me fearful of my life and no one said they were going to rape me. It is different, clearly, but it is still upsetting. If I felt it, at that level, what the hell must it feel like at that other end of the spectrum?
“It’s incredibly important we remember that people are being physically abused in their homes. This is not just an issue for middle-class intellectuals and the media. Twitter is only a reflection of something that is happening in society. We have to focus on both ends of the spectrum.”
Last year, about 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse, more than 400,000 were sexually assaulted, 60,000 were raped and thousands more were stalked, according to government statistics. Fewer than 1 in 4 people who suffer abuse at the hands of their partner — and only around 1 in 10 women who experience serious sexual assault — report it to the police.
Since the campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and the MP Stella Creasy complained about the threats they had received, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Twitter to ramp up its procedures for dealing with abuse.
Twitter has announced plans to include a button for reporting abuse within every tweet but critics argue that this does not go far enough.
Asked whether she supported a boycott of the site, Lady Lane-Fox said she would suggest the opposite.
“I would like to see everybody go through all their tweets, any crap that has been thrown at them, and retweet and report it. Let’s have a massive purge. Why not?”
She conceded that engaging with internet trolls could inflame the situation in some cases. “It’s very difficult to know where to draw the line and I’m sure I often get it wrong myself. It’s way too easy to engage in ridiculous debates. That happens all the time, especially if I’m sitting in a taxi. Then you think, ‘hold on, step back’. You wouldn’t speak to these people if you met them. You would just say, ‘thank you for your thoughts, goodbye’.”
The issue of whose responsibility it was to deal with the problem reminded her of the issue of racism in football in the 1980s.
“Don’t forget there was a huge debate in the Eighties with racism in football. Was it the responsibility of football clubs, or the stadiums, or the police?
“Twitter is just a platform, just a tool allowing ideas. But at the same time, it’s Twitter’s own platform and they need to decide how they want to regulate that comment that takes place on it. It is their responsibility too. They cannot just stand back.”


One thought on “Twitter, trolls and truths

  1. Pingback: Martha Lane Fox | ionthecity

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