Peter Nunn was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for threatening tweets sent to Stella Creasy, a Member of British Parliament, and feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez.
Creasy and Criado-Perez received an onslaught of abusive and vitriolic comments via Twitter after successfully running a campaign to have Jane Austen on the £10 note last summer. Two other Twitter users were already sentenced to jail time in January of this year for tweeting Criado-Perez menacing comments in the same time span.
Nunn composed and retweeted several messages to Creasy warning of a specific time she was going to be raped, along with tweeting general comments about rape in between, such as “If you can’t threaten to rape a celebrity, what is the point in having them?” After having one account suspended, he created a new account to continue harassing both women.
This type of behavior is not at all new or unusual on social networking sites. There has been significant outcry in the past couple of years criticizing Twitter for making it difficult to report abuse or threats, and for often not doing anything about the reports they do receive. Contacting the police is always an option, as happened in this case, but in many scenarios, the law just hasn’t caught up with technology yet, leaving few options for people on the receiving end of online harassment.
This particular case has a far more optimistic ending than many instances of internet-based abuse, in that the persecutors are actually facing real consequences for their actions. There’s no reason online threats shouldn’t be taken just as seriously as ones conveyed by any other means, and the more courts that realize and act upon that, the better off society will be.
Another thing that’s pretty amazing is that Nunn tried to use “I’m a feminist” as part of his defense. Maybe someone will gift him a dictionary or some feminist literature to read during his stint in jail.