Man arrested following Twitter rape threat

A man has been arrested after a flurry of rape threats were sent to Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter.

The threats were received – sometimes at the rate of 50 per hour – after the journalist won her campaign to have Jane Austen feature on £10 bank notes and have sparked a campaign to get Twitter to take a stronger stand against online abuse.

A 21-year-old suspect was detained in Manchester on suspicion of harassment last night.

Campaigners say the treatment of Criado-Perez is just the latest instance of a troubling trend where prominent female commentators and campaigners are subject to violent rape and death threats online.

A petition demanding a 'report abuse' button on Twitter has already received thousands of signatures.

Somes warn that the feature could be misused, for instance to close down legitimate free speech or by musicians or actors trying to close down the accounts of critics.

Others say rape threats are already against the law and should be a matter for the police rather than Twitter.

But women's rights groups say the brutality and regularity of the threats are themselves a restriction on free speech and that Twitter has a responsibility to protect its users.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Twitter had been "weak" in its handling of the affair.

"Of course it is right to report such abuse to the police," she wrote.

"But social media platforms also have a responsibility for the platform they give users."

Recent guidance by director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer set a high bar for social media prosecutions, with only messages which are considered "grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false" triggering a police response.

Rape threats could fall outside of that system as simple instances of harassment.