Troll-attack campaign goes viral

MICHELLE GRIFFIN
Last updated 16:24 08/11/2011

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A campaign to highlight the abusive misogyny of anonymous posters online has gone viral on Twitter.

Under the hashtag #mencallmethings, female bloggers, columnists and Twitter regulars have started reprinting some of the threats they say they receive daily from anonymous emailers, posters and other trolls.

While milder insults such as feminazi and ugly bitch are common, so, also were threats of rape and other violence. New Yorker Shelby Knox was told to "die in a fire". Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore said she "can't put here some stuff men write to me. It involves dismemberment, blood and excrement".

Prominent feminist blogger Jessica Valenti welcomed the #mencallmethings hashtag as a way of fighting back.

"I can't remember the last day where I opened my email and there wasn't a piece of vicious (often sexual, often violent) hate mail there. I also don't write about it because these days I'm loath to give any attention to harassers - in part because that's what they're so desperate for, but also because the threats have become so bad that my life offline has been seriously impaired by it and I'm just plain scared. But that's the goal of harassers - to scare, to terrorise, but most of all, to shut us up."

In Australia, social commentator Nina Funnell, newsreader Jacinta Tynan and anti-porn campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist have also spoken out recently about the vicious sexual trolling they receive by email, Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis.

In an analysis of the responses to a blog post about rape culture, Boston-based blogger Courtney Stanton found that one in four of the more than 400 responses she received were from trolls looking to flame the debate with aggressive pro-rape posts.

The majority of trolls hoped Ms Stanton or her mother or her daughter would be raped and/or killed, while many also called her fat and ugly and too repulsive "to be raped".

While most of the trolls were from North America, several came from Australia, the UK and Europe and a few from South America.

"I was planning on doing a name-and-shame of the idiots who harassed me on Facebook," Ms Stanton said, "using their real accounts. However, it just makes me too sad. If you've messaged me with gross images or the word "RAPE" repeated over and over in the body of the message or whatever, please consider revisiting your Facebook privacy settings. For several of you, I can see where you live and work."

Debates about hacking into and exposing the identities of trolls are still raging online. The Guardian has just invited a panel of feminist bloggers to debate the problem. The standard policy of ignoring trolls is now being superseded by proposals that their comments be forwarded to the police, and that their comments be exposed to ridicule and rejection online to raise awareness of the issue

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- The Age

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