I was on the train to work yesterday, reading the Metro. I keep trying to avoid it, because it does get me rather irritated sometimes.
Well, I came across this letter (copied as written, spelling errors are not mine): “Going unpunished: While I don’t agree with criminalising young people for the mistakes they make online, the vast difference between how young men are young women are punished concerns me. Many young men have been arrested and given jail time for threatening or abusive behaviour online but, to my knowledge, no women have. One Direction fans are notorious for issuing death threats on a regular basis to anyone who even dates one of the boys, but it’s all treated very jovially in the press and by police. However, a young man in England was given a criminal record and sent to a re-education course because he posted a video online of a burning poppy on Remembrance Day. A case of double standards. Liam, Coatbridge.”
Now, I don’t disagree with what I think his point is – that males are punished for similar crimes that females aren’t punished for – but the opening sentence disturbs me.
The people (male and female) who post abuse online are doing so with the full knowledge that what they are doing is illegal. It is *not* a “mistake” made by young people.
Just because someone is behind a screen and remains somewhat anonymous doesn’t mean what they are doing is trolling or ultimately unthreatening. In my opinion, trolling is posting on forums to get a reaction from people. Trolling is not sending abuse to or about individuals or groups and promoting violence. That is threatening and abusive.
If people received death or rape threats in the post, the police would be interested. After all, the person threatening these things must know where the recipient lives. They’ve gone to the trouble of writing a threat and sending it, so there must be something in it, whether it is to create fear or actually follow through.
So why is it so different online? Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Ask.fm have all been in the news because of the ‘trolls’ that cause someone to take their own life. Again, these are not trolls. These are not people who make mistakes and should be told it’s wrong. These are people who think through their actions and believe that it’s okay because it isn’t in person.
There have been a great deal of threats directed towards one woman in particular. Rape and murder, amongst others. What did she do to deserve this? These weeks/months of abuse? Campaigned for women to be represented on bank notes. Obviously this is such a terrible this to do that people feel the need to threaten her continuously. And then people were arrested. And apparently this woman was to blame for making a fuss.
Ask yourself this… if you, or your mother, sister, daughter, etc. were receiving these graphic and despicable threats, would you laugh it off and say “don’t feed the trolls” or would you want something to be done?
I don’t see how these threats via social media are seen as people taking it a bit far. If someone stood at your door and threatened to kill or rape you, but told police that they didn’t really mean it, were they just taking it a bit far? Just making a mistake?
I wrote in to the Metro, but I don’t know yet if my email has been printed. The exact wording of my reply was this: “Liam, you don’t agree with criminalising young people for ‘mistakes’ they make online? Death and rape threats are rife and people know what they’re doing. They should be held accountable. Yes, males and females alike. If someone came to you and threatened to kill you, you’d want something done, no? Just because it’s behind a screen doesn’t make it an error in judgement. It’s abuse and it’s illegal.
I hope Caroline Criado-Perez will rejoin us on Twitter. I think her strength in the face of all the abuse she received is inspirational, and it is only through women like her that women are able to work, vote, and own property.