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Twitter rape threats and the discourse of on-line misogyny (Claire Hardaker)

Date: 11 December 2013 Time: 16.00 - 17.00 pm

Venue: BN SR 14

In July 2013, Caroline Criado-Perez successfully campaigned to have a woman appear on an English banknote, and was subsequently inundated with misogynistic abuse on Twitter (graphic/sadistic/repeated threats of rape and murder). When MP Stella Creasy stepped in to defend Criado-Perez, she received similar abuse, and over the next few days, these threats escalated into bomb threats sent to several public figures (e.g. academic Mary Beard, celebrity Coleen Nolan, and several prominent female journalists). Legislative bodies came under intense public pressure to "fix" the issue, and accordingly, the DCMS Select Committee announced an autumn inquiry into "harmful online content". However, there is remarkable lack of research into such behaviour, which makes a sensible, evidence-based approach difficult. With this in mind, Claire Hardaker, in conjunction with the CASS centre, applied for an ESRC urgency grant to investigate extreme online misogynistic threats. The aim is to tackle the following five questions:

(1) What can we learn about the rape threat "trolls"?

(2) Why do they make rape threats?

(3) What else do the rape threat trolls do?

(4) What is the most appropriate structure for this type of data?

(5) Once created, what is the most appropriate method for interrogating this type of structured corpus?

We already have a seed corpus of nearly 300 tweets given to the project by CCP and SC. The plan is to use this seed-corpus to create a corpus of abuse-sending accounts (i.e. users) and abusive content. The project started on the 01st of December, 2013, so this talk will present a range of initial questions and obstacles that this project intends to tackle, along with the very first, tentative results that the data has suggested so far.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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