Action needed on cyber bullies

Lancaster University.
Lancaster University.

A Lancaster University expert has called on police to take internet abuse more seriously.

Dr Claire Hardaker, whose areas of research include manipulation in computer-mediated communication, cyberbullying and online grooming, spoke to the Guardian as a number of cases made national headlines.

A 25-year-old man was arrested under harassment legislation after using Twitter to send rape and death threats to Caroline Criado Perez, who successfully campaigned for women to be featured on bank notes.

The social media site has come under fire for not doing enough to stop users being targeted, but has since pledged to introduce a ‘report abuse’ button.

But Dr Hardaker said that while laws were in place to punish severe cases of so-called web ‘trolling’, police needed to tackle the problem more robustly and give greater support to website providers.

“The police need to take online offences much more seriously than they are doing,” she said.

“I heard one senior officer say ‘we need to prioritise real crime’ and that’s a really disturbing attitude.

“Some take the view that you can switch the computer off and the issue will go away.

“There are reasonable laws in place which are there if the police take it more seriously.”

The academic welcomed Twitter’s pledge to introduce a a facility where victims can report abuse, similar to Facebook, but fears people may use it for ‘petty arguments’, detracting attention from genuine abuse. I think Twitter needs more support from the police and the controls on the site made more refined.” she added.