British police investigate Twitter threats to female MP

LONDON (AFP) - British police said on Tuesday they were investigating violent and sexually explicit Twitter postings directed at a lawmaker in a growing row over threats to women on the social network.

Stella Creasy, an MP with the opposition Labour party, faced a stream of abuse after supporting a feminist activist who was targeted for campaigning for an image of novelist Jane Austen to appear on banknotes.

Ms Creasy's complaint to police came as another lawmaker said she too was receiving a barrage of offensive messages, and after a 21-year-old man was arrested and bailed over rape threats to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.

"This isn't about Twitter, this is about hatred of women and hatred of women who speak up," Ms Creasy told BBC radio on Monday.

"Twitter needs to be explicit that sexual violence and sexual aggression will not be tolerated as part of their user terms and conditions."

High-profile women in Britain have long complained of online harassment but the issue reached front pages after Ms Criado-Perez said she received "about 50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours" last week.

Scotland Yard said Tuesday: "Officers in Waltham Forest received an allegation of malicious communications from an MP. The allegation relates to comments made on Twitter and is currently under consideration."

Ms Creasy retweeted a series of tweets that included threats from accounts named "killcreasynow" and "eatcreasynow", which have now been suspended.

She said she was reporting the abuse to both Twitter and police.

Lawmaker Claire Perry, from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, likewise retweeted a string of message including threats of sexual violence and one that read, "please disappear into obscurity and/or alcoholism. or die, whatever."

"I am tempted to shut down my Twitter account given the trolling going on incl. to me - but that would be giving in," Ms Perry tweeted.

Ms Perry has been advising Mr Cameron on his plans to introduce an "opt-in" system for blocking Internet pornography.

The abuse to Ms Criado-Perez sparked a huge outcry among Twitter users and prompted more than 60,000 people to sign an online petition demanding the network introduce a "report abuse" button and review its rules on abusive behaviour.

Twitter has introduced a report button on tweets in its iPhone app and plans to bring it to other platforms.

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