Feeds

Police probe IDIOTIC Twitter bomb threats slung at journalists

Trolls standing on the platform edge. Easy now

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Twitter's trolling heatwave intensified on Wednesday night when a number of journalists were targeted with terrifying bomb threats.

Reprobates used anonymous Twitter handles - whose accounts now appear to have been suspended - to send messages to Guardian features writer Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Time magazine's Europe editor Catherine Mayer. The tweets chillingly warned that bombs had been placed outside their homes.

Freeman, who had earlier waded into the row about posting rape and death threats on the micro-blogging site with a comment piece entitled: "How to use the internet without being a total loser", modified a tweet that she sent out to her thousands of followers, which read:

We've gone from rape to bomb threats, I see MT @98JU98U989 @HadleyFreeman A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT 10:47

Dent and Mayer each said they too had received similar threats.

Freeman added last night that she had reported the harassment to the police and tweeted: "If it's illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it's illegal to threaten to bomb me."

Her comment was in reference to Paul Chambers, who was arrested in January 2010 for posting a tasteless joke on his Twitter account saying he would blow Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport "sky high" if his flight was hit by delays.

He was found guilty of sending a threatening message over a public telecoms network. Chambers later successfully appealed against his conviction in the High Court when he was cleared of having sent a "menacing" tweet.

Freeman, meanwhile, warned that "[t]he police are on the case and anyone who makes similar threats will be reported."

Scotland Yard told The Register:

We can confirm the MPS has received allegations relating to bomb threats sent to a number of females on Twitter. Enquiries continue. No arrests.

The journalists had been advised by police not to stay home over night, Mayer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Cops also searched her building as a precautionary measure.

Over the course of the past week, threats on Twitter have ignited the debate about freedom of speech and the trolling phenomenon*.

Feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez told police last weekend that she was threatened with rape on Twitter following the success of her efforts to get author Jane Austen on England's £10 notes. A 21-year-old man in Manchester was arrested on Sunday by cops investigating the complaint.

MP Stella Creasy also griped about what appeared to be credible threats she too had received on the site.

Publish and be damned, but please don't ask us to edit the content

Twitter has attempted to limit the criticism levelled at it by saying that a special button to report such harassment will be added to the various mobile and web versions of its service soon. At present, the option to report abuse is only available on the Apple iPhone version of the service.

The company, of course, is having to walk a fine line here: just like Google, it doesn't want to be viewed as a publisher. While some might argue that - to quote one-time British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's bruising attack on 1930s' press barons - these outfits are demanding "power without responsibility".

But it's looking evermore likely that such websites that provide a platform to host content posted by others online could soon be protected under European Union law.

In June, the EU's advocate general Niilo Jääskinen said that Google was not obliged to remove sensitive legal content from its search index. His opinion is now being pored over by the 27 judges in Luxembourg's Court of Justice where it is expected to be adopted.

Importantly, the court said in June that "requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression of the publisher of the web page. In [Jääskinen's] view, it would amount to censorship of his published content by a private party".

It's unclear whether such an opinion, if adopted, could be extended to sites such as Twitter. But its hands-off approach to how the content posted on the micro-blogging platform arrives in unedited form full of typos, libel and abuse probably drops a few hints about how the service wants to continue to be perceived. ®

* Yes, we know.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.