The police in Britain are investigating a bomb threat made on Twitter to several women including three prominent journalists, amid a growing outcry over abusive tweets.
The message from anonymous user @98JU98U989, now suspended, said: “A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10.47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING”.
Hadley Freeman, a columnist with the Guardian newspaper, Grace Dent of the Independent and Catherine Mayer, Europe editor of the US-based Time magazine, all said on Twitter they had received the message on Wednesday evening.
Freeman had written a column a day earlier headlined “How to use the internet without being a total loser”, responding to a series of violent and s*xually explicit messages aimed at women on the social network.
High-profile women in Britain have long complained of online harassment, but the issue reached front pages last week when feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez met with a barrage of abuse after successfully lobbying for novelist Jane Austen to appear on a banknote.
“We can confirm that the Metropolitan Police service has received allegations relating to bomb threats sent to a number of females on Twitter,” a spokesman for the London force said on Thursday.
“Inquiries continue. There have been no arrests and no bombs actually went off,” he added.
Freeman said police had advised her not to stay at home overnight.
“If it’s illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it’s illegal to threaten to bomb me,” she added on Twitter.
Sara Lang, a social media manager at US campaign group AARP, tweeted that she had also received the bomb threat and had contacted US police.
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition asking Twitter to improve its procedures against abusive messages since the spate of threats spread from Criado-Perez to two female MPs.
Twitter is rolling out a “report abuse” button on individual tweets, but campaigners say the form to which it leads is too long and complicated for those facing a barrage of threats.
Two British men were arrested after Criado-Perez and the MPs reported menacing tweets to police – a 21-year-old from Manchester in central England and a 25-year-old from Northumbria in the northeast.
Both were questioned on suspicion of malicious communications, and have been released on bail.
The recent threats have brought to fore again the abuse of social media.