Caroline Criado-Perez forces social media to wake up

Threats of rape. Threats of other violence. ''People'' telling me that I was so ugly no one would ever f--- me. Or that a good f---ing would fix me. When I became involved in an online campaign, Destroy the Joint, to stop sexism and misogyny, well, dammit if it didn't unleash a torrent of sexism and misogyny.

Look, by my judgment, I've had lots of knee-trembling sex in my life and it hasn't much altered my politics (OK, I'm a little tougher on road rules but that may have more to do with being a parent than with having a good shag).

But what I did discover is that if I wanted to complain about online threats and harassment to anyone, no one seemed to ever take any responsibility.

Not the sites where the threats are made. Not the social media companies where the sites are hosted. Not the police. Not the government.

So I was astonished when I discovered on Monday that a British man was arrested on suspicion of harassment offences. Astonished, envious, delighted. Someone is taking online threats of violence and harassment seriously. It may be Britain but it also may be contagious. Responsibility can often work that way.

The story? British feminist Caroline Criado-Perez became a target on Twitter when her campaign to get Jane Austen on to the £10 note was successful; the abusive tweets began on the day of the announcement.


About 50 violent tweets an hour. Every hour. It continued for 48 hours. And when she tweeted a senior manager on Twitter, his response was to lock his account.

He is so lucky she is not dead. A more senior person from Twitter told her someone would get back to her on Monday. Because violence takes the weekend off, right?

Locally, the administrators of the Facebook page Babyology finally came to the conclusion on Sunday that its community could not stand the level of abuse of some contributors, so has taken the decision to ''remove at our discretion any negative or abusive comments made on our Facebook page''.

And when it posted the new policy, the crowd went wild. Most were of the ''well done'' variety but it's hard to go past this childhood reference from Melissa Drysdale: ''I think some people need to revisit their childhood and relearn a lesson from Thumper in the great movie Bambi. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.'' Here are some of the things I learnt from being part of Destroy the Joint.

A good Facebook community is highly interactive. And every interaction requires attention. That attention pretty much needs to be 24 hours a day. I've had a few requests from companies asking me if one of the DtJ admin group could give lessons - and my response is that most companies would not be interested in having to pay people to monitor Facebook pages overnight. Our group does it for free because we pretty much share the same values.

If someone is antisocial, we try to be polite first. If that doesn't work, we card them. Just like in football. Repeat offenders go to the judiciary. And sometimes they never come back. Think of online violence as an eye gouge. Why would you want that person on your team?

It's now become much easier to report bad behaviour to Facebook itself - and I'd have to say that after dealing with the Australian arm of the company, it now appears to have a genuine commitment to safety. Slightly disorienting. I can't actually believe I'm saying that because six months ago, I had trouble getting them to remove a fake profile of me which had changed my name, rather unimaginatively, to Sick C---.

These days, and in my experience, Facebook deals swiftly with those who threaten violence and incite rape. I can block and report and I know that even if those who look at the reports don't share my values (they often don't), someone is actually checking. Facebook feels safer than Twitter, although the microblogging site, in response to the attacks on Criado-Perez, says it will now make reporting abuse much easier.

A few months ago, I was sick to death with one bloke in particular who was attacking me on Twitter and tried to take matters into my own hands. I tracked him down (don't ask, don't tell). I called him, identified myself; and then told him off. I also told his wife.

Please don't do that. He renewed his attacks on me but when I started using his real name in my responses he disappeared. Into nothingness.

Bravo to Caroline Criado-Perez for facing off her demons. And for making at least one social media site recognise its responsibilities.

The thing is, we are all part of those communities now. All networked. All connected. Of course I want Facebook and Twitter to monitor the playground. But we need to do it ourselves, too.

Twitter @jennaprice

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