The horrific abuse I see aimed at women on twitter makes me ashamed to be a man. Seeing these vile messages as well as reports from friends about what is said to them in the streets everyday has opened my eyes to what happens to women elsewhere. There is a huge problem in society with sexist abuse and rape threats which is made particularly obvious on twitter. The problem is amplified because twitter is a massive global platform such that one person can be attacked through thousands of tweets for hours on end. Even so, I think twitter just makes the already-present abuse visible for all to see.

Abuse can be reported to twitter by email but it’s useless in the face of an onslaught of thousands of rape threats. I’m not convinced that a report abuse button is any more practical than attempting to reply to the abuse is though. People already misuse the report spam button to attack people who they disagree with or who call them out and make them angry. Accounts representing oppressed minorities get suspended all the time because people click report spam when they don’t like the message.

I’ve seen friends get suspended for annoying people by being women, or black, or trans, or gay, or disabled, and I’ve seen friends drown in threats of rape and violence and demands that they kill themselves – going on for days at a time after just one unfavourable mention by a celebrity.

So what is the solution? I don’t know. It’s complicated. The answer is not “just block them” as so many clueless people advocate. When the abuse is relentless and from hundreds of people there is no escape by that route. The answer is probably not a report abuse button. Twitter do provide information on reporting abuse in the Twitter Help Center but it is fairly tedious and is not practical to report everyone involved when under attack from many people. A button could speed things up but would face the same abuse as the report spam button and even then might not be practical for handling a lot of people at once. If such a scheme were to be implemented then twitter must make sure that it would not itself be used to attack people.

The answer certainly isn’t to charge for twitter, as suggested by some journalists. Charging would exclude millions of people who live in poverty both in rich and in poor countries. It would exclude a great many sick and disabled people who rely on twitter to keep them in touch with friends. Asking twitter to charge comes from a position of pure privilege.

Society needs to change. Men need to understand that it is unacceptable to throw sexual demands at women in the street or to tell them on twitter that they are going to rape them. It is not acceptable to stand by and let this happen either. Us men who do understand this need to speak out and tell those others that this behaviour must stop.


Twitter Help Center: Reporting Abusive Behavior

The Everyday Sexism Project – Many examples of unacceptable abuse.

Some examples of tweets aimed at Caroline Criado-Perez following her campaign to keep women on banknotes:




Disability hate – from people who should know better

I’ve just been told about this rather disheartening incident involving my dad this morning.

My dad has a friend called Ray. Ray is blind and physically disabled. He has a guide dog, and uses a walking stick too. My dad has serious spinal problems and also walks with a stick. Both of them are entitled to use blue badges for disabled parking.

My dad and Ray went to McDonalds for breakfast this morning. This particular branch has just two disabled parking bays. This is not normally a problem but today when they arrived both were in use. One of the cars, though, contained a woman and a child with a blue badge on display who were sat eating food from the drive-through. My dad had to stop and let Ray and his dog out in the road and then park in a standard bay with further to walk.

My dad stopped and pointed out to the woman that she was blocking a disabled parking bay causing problems and risk for them and that this wasn’t necessary since she wasn’t getting out of the car and could therefore park in a bay further away from the restaurant. (He does this himself when he is not getting out.)

She was immediately hostile, announcing

“You don’t pay for my car.”

My dad pointed out that this wasn’t the point, but then she noticed his walking stick. At this point she actually threatened to physically hurt him, finishing with

“Walk away know while you still can, old man.”

My dad sensibly left it there.

This incident makes me sad because not only was this abuse of a disabled person but it came from the mother of a disabled child who really should know better. The rules for parking don’t explicitly state that she shouldn’t use the bay but they do say that you shouldn’t sit and wait for a non-disabled person and that consideration should be given. (See below.) Even so, she was hostile and abusive when there was no need to be. It also makes me sad that the woman’s first reaction was to defend her possession of the car, clearly related to public attacks on Motability in recent months.

Who can use the badge?

The badge is for your use and benefit only. It must only be displayed if you are travelling in the vehicle as a driver or passenger, or if someone is collecting you or dropping you off and needs to park at the place where you are being collected or dropped.

Do not allow other people to use the badge to do something on your behalf, such as shopping or collecting something for you, unless you are travelling with them.

• You must never give the badge to friends or family to allow them to park for free, even if they are visiting you.

• You should not use the badge to allow non-disabled people to take advantage of the benefits while you sit in the  car. Although it is not illegal for a badge holder, or a non-disabled person waiting for the badge holder to return, to remain  in the vehicle while the Blue Badge is displayed, consideration should be given to using a car park whenever possible.

• It is a criminal offence to misuse a badge. This includes people other than the badge holder taking advantage of the parking concessions provided under the scheme.

Taken from The Blue Badge scheme: rights and responsibilities in England, page 8


Digital Rights Management

The hard disk I just bought had a film on it.  I bought the disk because it was cheap and the film itself is of no interest at all to me, but I did find two interesting things about it.

  1. The film can only be watched on a total of three PCs or media players. Ever.
  2. The activation code expires in September 2011.

If I had bought this product for the film, I would be extremely disapointed in it. The restrictions they have placed on it mean that I could watch it on my destktop PC, laptop, and portable video player, and then could never activate it again. Bought a new PC? Tough. Not only that, but I won’t be able to watch the film on any device that I buy after September 2011.

Film industry, you’re not doing a very good job of convincing us that this DRM is not evil!

I am going to make sure that I keep a copy of this film around, and my recipt. I’m going to be demanding a refund in 2011.