When it comes to female journalists, internet trolls have upgraded from rape threats to bomb threats, according to the Guardian.
Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman and independent writer Grace Dent both received a tweet saying that a bomb would detonating in front of their apartments at a certain time.
Freeman’s latest column, “How to Use the Internet Without Being a Total Loser,” discussed the issue of misogynistic online abuse. She received flack from both men and women, but said the abuse directed against her has become more “angry, intense, and misogynistic” since the rape threats recently made against feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour Member of Parliament Stella Creasy, which also occurred on Twitter.
Clearly, the point of such bomb threats was to make these women feel vulnerable and unsafe to the point that that they stop speaking their minds.
It's reminiscent of when Dixie Chicks front woman Natalie Maines’ expressed an opinion about former President George W. Bush, which led to a death threat from a man who described a specific time, place, and weapon.
More recently, technology enthusiast and SendGrid employee Adria Richards used Twitter to call out a man for being sexist. After her he was fired, she received offensive racial comments, rape threats, and death threats, and has essentially gone into hiding.
There is a pattern of men threatening women for putting forth their opinions, but equally concerning is the extent to which some people feel comfortable bullying others online. Bullies get brave in the shadows of anonymity, typing out hateful, cowardly messages because they are unhappy and insecure in their own lives. What these haters don’t realize is that ridiculous terrorist threats like the aforementioned don't silence people. Instead, they cause an uproar, giving people — including a great deal of women — an issue about which to express their opinions.
Because of the prevalence of rape and death threats, many are calling for a “report abuse” button on Twitter. But bullies don’t just live on one social media platform. They are on YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr — any platform with the option to leave comments. Comment boards breed an online culture that encourages negativity and abuse, no matter what someone writes about. Since there is a deluge of negative language, bomb threats emerge in order to stand out from the everyday abuse.
Dangerous threats like the ones against Freeman and Dent get the police involved, wasting time and resources because a coward hiding behind a computer wanted to scare someone into shutting up. I'd like to ask the trolls, was it worth it? While two male suspects have been arrested in this case, more and more people have been standing up for Freeman, Dent, and female journalists in general. In a way, those writers have the bomb threats to thank for drawing more attention to online abuse, to their articles, and to their cause.