Social media website Twitter was under pressure Tuesday to take tougher action against internet trolls, as British police arrested a man on suspicion of sending abusive tweets to a member of parliament and feminist campaigner.
Labour parliamentarian Stella Creasy was bombarded with the tweets in which she was threatened with rape and murder after she spoke up in support of a women’s rights campaigner, Caroline Criado Perez, who was also targeted following her successful campaign to have a woman featured on English banknotes.
Scotland Yard said police arrested a 25-year-old man on suspicion of sending harassing tweets to the women.
Creasy and Criado Perez have criticized Twitter for not doing enough to combat online abuse and urged the company to make it easier to report abusive tweets, which can currently only be done by filling in a lengthy online form.
An online petition calling for Twitter to install a “report abuse button” to tweets, set up in support of Criado Perez, has already attracted more than 83,000 signatures.
Creasy and Criado Perez said that Twitter executives had assured them they were working to speed up the reporting process during a meeting late Monday.
“I feel that finally they’re taking this issue seriously, though it’s a shame it’s taken this worldwide outcry for them to act,” said Criado Perez. “We’ll be keeping up the pressure in the coming weeks, but the signs of some serious, positive changes are good.”
Criado Perez, a freelance journalist, received a barrage of sexually explicit abuse last week after the Bank of England announced that Jane Austen would feature on ten pound bank notes, as a result of a campaign she led.
A 21-year-old man was earlier arrested after she complained to police about the abuse, which she said had left her feeling “under siege” and put her “in fear.”
Creasy, who was still receiving threats of sexual violence on Tuesday, told BBC radio that Twitter needed “to be explicit that sexual violence and sexual aggression will not be tolerated as part of their user terms and conditions.”
A Twitter spokesman said that its latest iPhone app had a button for reporting abuse, which it was hoping to expand.
Twitter executives are likely to be grilled by parliamentarians when issues surrounding child protection are taken up in the autumn.
“It isn’t that the law needs to be changed,” said Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair John Whittingdale, “the question is how you identify people and how you prevent them (from abusing others online).”
“That is the big question and it is one we would wish to explore with internet companies to determine whether they are doing as much as they can or whether they should do more,” the member of parliament said.