Thursday, 22 August 2013

Tweeting misogony

Jane Austen will feature on the £10 notes
It is worrying to see how certain people make use of the anonymity offered by certain social networks to spread hate and abuse. It is one thing to be a pathetic and sad troll who finds solace and -perhaps- a sort of  needed self-esteem by annoying and antagonising other people day in day out: it is a very different one to threaten and insult other users in unacceptable ways.
We have  lately witnessed  a trend whereby users- mostly men- issue death and rape threats to women who have been vocal against different issues affecting women's rights and injustices.
As I mentioned, there have been a few examples of women being subjected to abuse recently, including some well-known campaigners and journalists.
I was particularly interested in the case of activist Caroline Criado-Perez, the woman behind the campaign that asked the Bank of England to reconsider their decision of replacing social reformer Elizabeth Fry by Winston Churchill on the £5 notes. This would mean that no woman, apart from the Queen, would feature on the English bank notes An online petition asking Mervyn King, the Bank of England Governor, to reconsider this eventually succeeded and so Jane Austen will feature on the £10 notes from 2017.
I'd assume that most people would cheer this decision as an example of how a social media campaign has real consequences, even when it comes to powerful institutions such as the Bank of England.
However, this does not seem the case with those who chose to spit their anger and sexist attitude on Twitter, threatening Criado-Perez in such a way that saw the social network being questioned about its policies on how to handle these threats.
At least one man has been arrested by the police and the whole issue has been widely debated, which may or may not deter other people from cowardly hiding behind anonymous accounts to spread hate and get away with it.
Campaigners, regardless of their gender, should feel safe when using the social media to highlight and promote their causes. Let's just hope this is the case from now on.