This article was published on July 27, 2013

Twitter UK chief responds to abuse concerns after campaigner is deluged with rape threats

Twitter UK chief responds to abuse concerns after campaigner is deluged with rape threats

The head of Twitter’s business in the UK has responded to concerns that the service is not doing enough to help users report abuse, after a UK-based equal rights campaigner received repeated rape threats this week.

Appearing to respond to a petition that says Twitter’s “current reporting system is below required standards,” Twitter UK General Manager Tony Wang said in a series of tweets that the company “take(s) online abuse seriously” and will “suspend accounts that, once reported to us, are found to be in breach of our rules.”

In addition to providing links to Twitter’s webpages that provide help to users who believe they have been abused on the service, Wang revealed that the company is working on new ways to make reporting abuse easier.

Twitter currently includes a “Report Tweet” button on its iOS and Web apps, but users on other versions can only report abuse by visiting the offending user’s profile page. That can be tricky to find for those who are not well versed with the way Twitter works, or are perhaps in a state of panic from receiving abusive messages.

Wang’s comments come after more than 11,000 people signed a petition calling for the ‘report tweet’ button to be made available across the entire Twitter platform after campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez was deluged with rape threats.

“It is time Twitter took a zero tolerance policy on abuse, and learns to tell the difference between abuse and defence. Women standing up to abuse should not fear having their accounts cancelled because Twitter fail to see the issue at hand,” the petition says.

Criado-Perez received the abuse this week after successfully leading a campaign to bring greater female representation on banknotes in the UK, as the BBC reports.

Wednesday’s announcement that author Jane Austen’s image would appear on £10 notes was said to have kicked off the messages. Criado-Perez reported the incidents to the police, revealing that she received “about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours.”

Her local MP Stella Creasy told the BBC she was “furious” that Twitter had not stepped to deal with the issue.

Wang said, via Twitter, that the company was unable to discuss the specifics of the incident because “we don’t comment on individual accounts.” That position was echoed in a statement that Twitter provided to the BBC.

Headline image via Scott Beale / Laughing Squid