Of cyber lynch mobs

May
15
2015
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
Comments

Last Saturday I discovered that my Intention Experiment website – a website that has sought to encourage large groups of people essentially to pray together for solutions to global problems – got hacked into. The home page was replaced by the following:

Lynn McTaggart is a slut so we hacked her site. Really funny walking bitch. You have been warned so many times, and you would not listen. We therefor take things into our own hands. A small fire in your office block might be a good thing too. Please check your fire hazard warnings. We like your little mini car, C4 is such a beautiful thing, similar to your daughter. Plugging both her holes were so good. Wonder if you're as tight as she is. Hmmmm

Last Saturday I discovered that my Intention Experiment website – a website that has sought to encourage large groups of people essentially to pray together for solutions to global problems – got hacked into. The home page was replaced by the following:

ax

 

With the following message: "Lynn McTaggart is a slut so we hacked her site. Really funny walking bitch. You have been warned so many times, and you would not listen. We therefor take things into our own hands. A small fire in your office block might be a good thing too. Please check your fire hazard warnings. We like your little mini car, C4 is such a beautiful thing, similar to your daughter. Plugging both her holes were so good. Wonder if you're as tight as she is. Hmmmm"

I reprint this in full on the premise that, like Jackie Kennedy refusing to take off the pink suit splattered with her husband’s blood after he was shot in Dallas, the best way to convey the full horror of a violent act is to broadcast every unexpurgated gory detail.

The online skeptics, indeed internet trolls in general, are a modern-day version of a lynch mob. The problem with any group of self-righteous individuals operating within a hermetically sealed environment, such as a hate-fueled internet following, is that, like a genuine lynch mob, acts of violence are a calling card of acceptance by the group, each violent act by one member spurring on an escalation by someone else. Cyber gang rape becomes justified as simply an act of belonging.

As anthropologist Scott Atran wrote in Talking to the Enemy about Al-Qaeda terrorists, “People don’t simple kill and die for a cause. They kill and die for each other.”

The targets of cyber threats are almost always women (women receive about three quarters of all threats says WHO@ (Working to End Online Abuse), and the statements are invariably personal, sexual and sexually threatening.

In fact cyber threats are a fairly standard response to women with a decent sized platform who refuse to keep their mouths shut about just about anything challenging the status quo.

And like mine, more often than not, the abuse isn’t always a random act of crazies, but the deliberate acts of a particular group with a specific political agenda.

Feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, for instance, was driven out of her own home after receiving an outpouring of death and rape threats on Twitter. Her crime? Criticizing the glorifying of violence against women on internet games.

The most well known instance of this is the feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who received continuous rape and death threats just for successfully lobbying for a picture of Jane Austen to appear on the British £10 banknote. And so did MP Stella Creasy, after offering her support of Criado-Perez.

We are told that getting justice for online threats and harassment is an uphill struggle. The police don’t know how to investigate these threats; the trolls are clever about concealing their addresses; the authorities think that Twitter and FB are just fantasyland and often don’t take it seriously unless the case is handed to them on a platter; and companies like Twitter hide under the umbrella of free speech and protection of the rights of the individual.

In fact, when Creasy tried to get Twitter to do something about the threats, and asked her growing number of followers to follow suit by contacting Mark Luckie, Twitter’s manager of journalism and news, Luckie responded by temporarily turning off his account, claiming he was being ‘abused’. At the time, Twitter claimed that this was issue was best handled by the police. End of.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of things women can do.

The usual advice is to ignore these threats, but I think that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. The best thing to do is to take the fight to them.

Here’s what I suggest for any woman who receives this kind of on-line threats or abuse.

1. Refuse to cower.
Criado-Perez retweeted the rape threats and continued to hound Twitter to do something about it, and Creasy used Twitter to inform the police of the threats. She took screen grabs to give to the police as evidence, and also warned her abusers that she was logging their threats. As a result of her actions, three of these trolls did in fact get arrested and served prison sentences, one of them a 24-year-old woman who claimed she just wrote the threats after a heavy night of drinking.

2. Insist that Facebook and Twitter be far more accountable.
In response to several online petitions calling for action, and author Caitlin Moran’s call for a Twitter ‘silence’ on August 4, 2013, Twitter rushed through a “report abuse” button that allows users to flag up offensive, threatening or abusive material. However, they need to go one step further. Like Facebook, they need to insist that users use their real names so they can be traced.

3. Out anonymity and name names.
Several years ago one of the most notorious of trolls, known as Violentacrez, operated Reddit, an anonymous online community, which among its many activities, published lewd pictures of underage girls and fostered subcommunities with itles like ‘Rapebait’ and ‘Chokeabitch’. Reddit also had a ‘CreepShot’ section where people could post pictures of teenagers with their skirts flipped up and the like taken without their knowledge. Gawker, an online US blog founded by Nick Denton and Elizaeth Spiers, worked tirelessly to discover the identity of Violentacrez, and finally succeeded in outing him as Michael Brutsch.

4. Hand over names to the police or the media.
Around the same time ‘Samantha,’ 25-year-old woman tired of ‘CreepShot’ posters,  set up her own subsite ‘Predditors’, which compiles the personal information about the men who post these photos and report them both to local authorities and also their companies. To note just one of her many successes, Coweta County Sheriff Investigator Jason Fetner was told that a 35-year-old substitute teacher was taking surreptitious photos of high school girls: "Hot senior girl in one of my classes," read one such caption. Although the photos themselves weren’t lewd, when Fetner got hold of the teacher’s phone he discovered many nude photos being sent to girls as young as 16. The teacher got arrested.

5. Get help by a friend who knows his way around the internet.
One of Criado-Perez’s abusers got caught by a producer on BBC’s Newsnight, Mike Deri Smith. He was monitoring rape and death threats sent on Twitter over the summer, and found one anonymous person using multiple accounts to send the abusive tweets. Smith contacted him, gained his confidence and eventually learned his Playstation user name, which enabled Newsnight to trace him to a Facebook account and ultimately led to his identification a
nd arrest. A friend of yours who is a dab hand online could do the same.

And finally, refuse ever to be silenced. This kind of threat carries a jail sentence of up to two years, and we intend to put whoever did this behind bars. Our sites are being monitored and we’ll find out the origin of any further abuse against us.

I am not only not shutting up, but I have asked every woman I know who believes in feminine power to publicize what happened and what we can do about it.

Make even more noise on the internet and your solitary voice will soon turn into a thundering symphony.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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