Mixed reaction to #TwitterSilence campaign

One-day boycott of social networking site arranged in protest at handling of abuse reports

Journalist and writer Caitlin Moran said ‘we’re now talking about the problem of online abuse towards people for their religion, race, sexuality and physicality’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Twitter was facing a boycott of its social networking site today as some users pledged to stay off the service in protest at abusive posts.

The #TwitterSilence campaign started earlier this week as dissatisfaction with the reponse from Twitter to threats of rape and violence directed towards women users grew. The campaign was timed to coincide with International Friendship Day, and involves a 24-hour Twitter silence, which started at midnight.

Twitter yesterday said it planned to change its rules to make it clear that abusive posts would not be tolerated, and also strengething the team dealing with abuse reports.

However, the boycott went ahead today, in a bid to show people what the site would be like if it was overrun by Twitter “trolls”.


“In the last few weeks, I’ve seen women on Twitter being run to exhaustion by the volume of anonymous rape and violence tweets they’ve received - so many that even just blocking them is a full time job,” writer Caitlin Moran said in post explaining the reasons for the campaign.

“And, obviously, it’s not just women. In the wake of this, we’re now talking about the problem of online abuse towards people for their religion, race, sexuality and physicality. Essentially the problems of the most nightmare playground ever have been given a jet-pack and a megaphone through the power of social networking.”

Ms Moran was supported by a number of high-profile Twitter users, including TV presenter Kirsty Allsop, writer Jemima Khan, comedy writer Robert Webb and Guardian writer Suzanne Moore.

But the campaign has also been criticised as misguided and ineffective, with Piers Morgan describing it as “pointless” and other users urging people to speak up rather be silenced.

Caroline Criado-Perez, whose campaign to have more women represented on more British banknotes resulted in her receiving a deluge of rape threats, said she was not taking part in the campaign, although she appreciated the solidarity.

“This is bc while I see the potential power of a symbolic gesture, & each must react in their own way to abuse, personally it is not how I choose to react. I choose 2 remain on Twitter. I choose 2 #shoutback. And I choose not 2 stop even 4 a day” she posted.

Ms Criado-Perez has continued to receive threats on Twitter, including one claiming a sniper was aiming at her head and also a bomb threat similar to one sent to several women journalists on the site.

However, Ms Moran said she supported all ideas to kick back at abuse online.

“On the other hand, other people have said: ‘Why should we be silenced? Let’s fill Twitter on that day with love and positivity, instead - spend all day Tweeting happy things.’,” she wrote.

“And that’s a brilliant idea too. There’s LOADS of brilliant ideas in the world. I’m in favour of ALL the ones that are about joy. Everyone can do their thing. This is just the thing I thought of. I just wanted to do a thing.”

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist