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back to article Police probe IDIOTIC Twitter bomb threats slung at journalists

Twitter's trolling heatwave intensified on Wednesday night when a number of journalists were targeted with terrifying bomb threats. Reprobates used anonymous Twitter handles - whose accounts now appear to have been suspended - to send messages to Guardian features writer Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Time …

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I wonder what these people get from threatening people

Seems to me these people have nothing better to do other than threaten people for no apparent reason. The same law that applies to the real world should also apply to online world.

The responsibility ultimate responsibility should lie with the poster and should face the consequences of their actions. Twitter's job is respond to any reports of abuse using it's systems and to help police in the matter, but asking twitter to moderate the content would be like asking BT to moderate the content of every single call.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

But when TOR is used to set up a disposable e-mail account and a new handle it becomes more difficult to find someone to prosecute.

It is far easier to prosecute people who had no idea their "airport bomb hyperbole" tweet was going to end them in jail so didn't try to cover their tracks in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

" but asking twitter to moderate the content would be like asking BT to moderate the content of every single call."

Now, I'm not going to say they should moderate each message, but: BT don't moderate the contents of calls because they're private point-to-point communications. Twitter is a public forum, so any comments are published for the world to see. The rules of publishing should apply to anyone who posts comments on Twitter.

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Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

I've known quite a few forums that actively block email addresses that can be disposable. It will annoy a few people if twitter adopts this policy but it will solve the problem by providing a paper trail.

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Gav
Boffin

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

Plenty of apparent reasons. Here's some.

* Attention seeking, all be it anonymous

* Exercising power - very attractive if you a powerless loser.

* Exercising power with nearly zero consequences - you get to be vile, and there's no comeback.

* Peer approval - if you have friends as sick as you

* Standing up for what you think are your rights - without all that tedious actually standing behind them

* You get to pretend you're some kind of uber-cool online activist, protecting cyberspace, subverting the man who just doesn't get it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

More grants.

By getting some fembot to create an anonymous bomb threat, the women's rights outfit, get to ask for more funding.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

@Gav

Let's not forget boredom. Before Windows 8 I'm sure lots of people would writing software. Who wants to do that now?

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Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

I've known quite a few forums that actively block email addresses that can be disposable. It will annoy a few people if twitter adopts this policy but it will solve the problem by providing a paper trail."

How will this solve the problem of a paper trail? Trolls will just move from things like guerillamail to hotmail or gmail. So long as they're still using a proxy service such as tor they'll still be as anonymous as before.

Only accepting signups from paid-for email addresses sounds like a good way for twitter to kill their service.

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Thumb Down

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

"By getting some fembot to create an anonymous bomb threat, the women's rights outfit, get to ask for more funding."

Riiiiiight. Because a conspiracy is so much more plausible than a bunch of losers actually sending rape threats.

Actually, now that I think about it, that would be a nice world to live in, wouldn't it? I wonder what color the sky is in that world.

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Black Helicopters

Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

"Actually, now that I think about it, that would be a nice world to live in, wouldn't it? I wonder what color the sky is in that world."

Black.

Because of all the helicopters...

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Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

Good points.

I see some of the people who have been trolling Caroline Criado-Perez; and Oliver Rawlings, who attacked Mary Beard; have used 'freedom of speech' as a defence for their appalling actions. Thanks to them for undermining that principle so thoroughly.

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Re: I wonder what these people get from threatening people

What they get is TV, Radio and www coverage.

It seems that in this day and age, the old adage of "Ignore them and they'll go away" has been completely forgotten.

Trolls and their kin exist purely from attention, so stop giving it to them then, and get back to investigating and reporting on corrupt politicians, because they certainly don't like that kind of attention.

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Anonymous Coward

Bomb Threats

I don't think you can really compare the airport bomb threat, which was clearly a joke with someone saying "I've left a bomb outside your house".

And can we please stop calling it "trolling". Trolling is about winding someone up, pushing a finger into really oversensitive fans of One Direction, Harry Potter, Star Wars or whatever else. It's a barrel of laughs and not to be confused with threatening violence.

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Trollface

Re: Bomb Threats

"And can we please stop calling it "trolling". "

Sadly the word troll has gone the same way as hacker. Just wait for the papers to start printing headlines along the lines of "Hacker troll [something bad] on [social media/interwebs] "*

* Add in what ever seems appropriate.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Barrel of laughs

No "trolling" isn't a barrel of laughs for the person who is being "trolled", aka abused (whether mentally or verbally - which is often what some people call winding up).

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Gav
Holmes

Re: Bomb Threats

Trolling is trolling. One person's "barrel of laughs" is another person's harassment. I expect some behind these bomb threats are treating it partially as a joke, but that's because they have belligerent and warped minds.

The key distinction is the anonymous element. If someone you know has a dig about something you are touchy about (like bombs in your front garden), you have a lot to put it into context. Was it a joke? Was it serious? Do you care what they think/do? But when it's some Anonymous Coward you have nothing to put into context. You do not know whether you are dealing with a serious nutter. You do not know how far they are prepared to go, both in real life and online.

And being over-sensitive about One Direction does not give everyone a free pass to deliberately set out to wind you up. Particularly total strangers who are not in anyway affected by you.

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Re: Bomb Threats @ AC 11:44

"And can we please stop calling it "trolling". Trolling is about winding someone up, pushing a finger into really oversensitive fans of One Direction, Harry Potter, Star Wars or whatever else. It's a barrel of laughs and not to be confused with threatening violence."

Given that the concept of semi-anonymously riling up an individual or community for "fun" is in and of itself rather ...lame.. and tells a lot about mindset and morals of the individuals engaging in this "pastime", I can see why you choose to use the wuss-option yourself.

In my experience, it is often quite easy to dig into those trolling, and have them burst an artery or two in indignant rage, with the resulting (usually gramatically incoherent) verbal diarrhea containing threats of violence more often than not.

So no, the "issues" shouldn't be separated. They're simply two of many afflictions of the Armchair Bully, and as such should be integrated in the definition of "internet troll".

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Thumb Down

Re: Bomb Threats

"Trolling is about winding someone up, pushing a finger into really oversensitive fans of One Direction, Harry Potter, Star Wars or whatever else."

Please don't trivialize trolling by redefining it to be some kind of light hearted caper. These are real people being affected on twitter.

If you want to describe people winding someone up then come up a new word, don't redefine the word trolling to somehow legitimize it. This isn't 1984, you can't just redefine what the public understand words to really mean. You will just end up wasting your time like all those apologists online who go around saying "hacking isn't bad". Yeah right, then why is it illegal?

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Trollface

Re: Bomb Threats

"If you want to describe people winding someone up then come up a new word, don't redefine the word trolling to somehow legitimize it."

You must be new to the internet.

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Headmaster

Re: Bomb Threats

Lots of johnny-come-lately internoobs who try to force-redefine what "trolling" is about, I see.

Yes, that is YOU, NomNomNom and Gav

The first rule of trolling is: If you notice it's trolling, then it isn't trolling.

troll /v.,n./

[From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban] To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable responses or flames. Derives from the phrase "trolling for newbies" which in turn comes from mainstream "trolling", a style of fishing in which one trails bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite. The well-constructed troll is a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don't fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.

Some people claim that the troll is properly a narrower category than flame bait, that a troll is categorized by containing some assertion that is wrong but not overtly controversial.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bomb Threats

"Please don't trivialize trolling by redefining it to be some kind of light hearted caper."

You're obviously misinformed, to put it politely, as is the general public. "Trolling" has already been redefined. Originally it meant fishing, as it does literally, for gullible forum users. Since then people have associated it with actual "trolls", as in the ones that hide under bridges looking to pounce on an unsuspecting goat, then has come into popular culture to refer to what is more like "flaming". Trolling (in the original sense) is playground teasing, "flaming" is more akin to bullying and there is a difference.

"You will just end up wasting your time like all those apologists online who go around saying "hacking isn't bad". Yeah right, then why is it illegal?"

You see, that's a perfect example, possible misinterpretation of what hacking is, or has come to mean. In what has become an archaic sense, I am a hacker i.e. I'm a programmer. So you're either not getting what they're saying, or they actually are meaning "freelance penetration testing", in which case you're right. That stupid film did that.

Stil, you can't stop words changing meaning can you, otherwise I'd say it's time to go home and I feel rather gay about that :)

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Re: Bomb Threats

"Originally it meant fishing"

haha what a load of bollocks. Seriously what has fishing got to do with rape threats?

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Gav

Re: Bomb Threats

"Lots of johnny-come-lately internoobs who try to force-redefine what "trolling" is about, I see.

Yes, that is YOU, NomNomNom and Gav"

Hee hee. Why thank you, I feel so much younger. Unfortunately I can practically guarantee I was on the internet before you.

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Essentially what people are doing is the digital equivalent to shoving a death threat through someones letterbox, whether you mean it or not is irrelevant - it's still against the law. Censoring Twitter is not the solution - services spring up overnight and quickly gain popularity.... The solution is indeed very much arrests, same goes for Facebook - you should behave online the same way you would offline, if you don't you should expect the same punishments you get offline. Education is desperately needed in Schools as to the proper etiquette to online behaviour (something those of us who have been online longer than 5 years - know all too well)

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Headmaster

Point of order:

"proper etitquette to online behaviour" = netiquette.

This one has been with us for quite some time now, certainly longer than 5 years.

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h3
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Re: Point of order:

People ignore what that meant completely.

(One major portion of it was send e-mail in plain text only).

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Re: Point of order:

Then probably we need to formalise and release Netiquette 2.0, deprecate all that crap about plain text etc and make it a relevant and applicable standard.

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Holmes

Twitter knows that you're sending a message to someone, it knows what you're saying to them, and at the very least it has the IP address used to a) create the account b) being used to send the message.

Just how hard is it for them to spot such nonsense and bring up a friendly warning reminding the troll that they're probably not as anonymous as they think they are.

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I wonder how hard it would be to set up a service for people who don't want to be anon online. Like Twitters verified accounts. So people could block messages from people who haven't proved who they are. Certain websites could block people from using their services unless the user was legit etc.

Instead of forcing this upon everyone which obviously wouldn't fly, let people opt in. Nothing stopping people using anon accounts to sign up for pr0n and other such things but online shopping etc, all your details could be automatically grabbed from the verify service. Id sign up...

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Charge a tenner a year

Would mean no annoying pricks and could probably be ad free too - they should do it before someone else does and all the non trolls abandon them! Well it would be nice if it worked out like that but people seem to like everything being free even if it does mean no privacy and ad tracking.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Charge a tenner a year

ad-free? I've never seen ads on Tw@tter. AdBlockPlus doing that blocking for me?

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Re: Charge a tenner a year

"Charge a tenner a year"

I'm pretty sure there are people out there who woudl think "I paid for this, so I am allowed to act like a cockend"

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Re: Charge a tenner a year

Well I do not ever see ads either - most people are not blocking ads like us though.

And if people do act a cock, well if you only accept payment via credit or debit card they'd be easy to track down so if they misbehaved in a criminal way they'd be soon found - and even if they were just annoying trolls well you could block all cards from their address from signing up for accounts for say five years which should stop them signing up under a different name.

Just ideas of the top my head - I aint really given it much thought.

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"I wonder how hard it would be to set up a service for people who don't want to be anon online."

Ask Mark Zuckerberg.

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Nothing stopping you from entering false info on there.....

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a lack of understanding of the Internet

and a waste of police time.

That is all.

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Re: a lack of understanding of the Internet

It would be a crime if they sent the threats by letter, it should be a crime to send them by twitter.

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Re: a lack of understanding of the Internet

Although equally, if it isn't a crime to send it by letter, it shouldn't be a crime to send it by Twitter.

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Losing meaning

@ Anonymous coward ... (ironic default moniker under the circumstances)

While I agree with you over the loss of meaning caused by overloading a perfectly good term with additional meaning that's what happens when the 'uneducated' press jump on a bandwagon.

I say that as an experienced hacker ... yes a 'hacker', not a 'cracker'. Someone who breaks into systems used to be called a cracker, whereas someone who could dive into a malfunctioning system at source code level. find and fix errors or add temporary fixes to treat symptoms was a hacker. Lost that battle eons ago though.

Back on topic - I'm concerned about the balance here. Whereas I deplore these types of tweets and hope these 'extreme trolls' suffer all the consequences they truly deserve in this nice, western, free-speech, human rights compliant country.

My concern however would be for citizens of countries who expose wrong-doings over twitter etc. and deserve anonymity but who may be traced using such mechanisms.

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Call-Me-Dave, take note..

the court said in June that "requesting search engine service providers to suppress legitimate and legal information that has entered the public domain would entail an interference with the freedom of expression of the publisher of the web page. In [Jääskinen's] view, it would amount to censorship of his published content by a private party"

Your plans for internet censorship have already been considered by the EU Advocate General, are you willing to try it on and end up taking it to the EU Courts of Justice?

Rehtorical question really, ofcourse they will, "publish and be damned". They'll implement it, fight it all the way, branding anyone who opposes them as pedoterrorists.

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Ambiguity

I suppose we have to assume that they are using a 24 hour clock and that they meant 10:47 this morning.

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Anonymous Coward

Stupid

This was stupid both by those posting the messages and those reading them - one side for thinking it was a good idea, and the other side by not just blocking the idiots.

And compared to what happens if you wind up certain Scousers (and fake Scousers) on Twitter this was nothing.

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Stop

Re: Stupid

I dont know. Most people know to ignore the bollocks thats spewed on the internet, but if someone anonymously wrote to me saying that they had placed a bomb outside my house, I think I would be ringing the cops too...

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Stupid?

If some scumbag threatened me with having my house blown up for having the nerve to express my opinion about who should be on British banknotes while being a woman (I'm not a woman), I'd want to ruin their life as extensively and publicly as possible. So yes, I would call the police in.

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Re: Stupid?

meh...

I used to regularly get death threats from BNP/EDL supporters for daring to disagree with them and pointing out the stupid shit they said.

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Last week...

Does anyone have a timeline of exactly when this shitstorm stirred up?

I just had a thought and looked up school holidays. From my reckoning there's a correlation here...

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Twitter should be held liable as publishers.

There is a world of difference between a Google search and Twitter. Google quite rightly provide a list of and link to stuff that's already on the net.

Twitter should be compared to a local/national newspaper. If i sent odious/debateable stuff to a responsible paper there is no way on earth that they would print any of it.

If i send any such stuff to Twitter, THEY publish it. Without Twitter doing so i would be silent.

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Unhappy

One Solution:

Stop using social media.

Try writing something meaningful to people whose opinion matters to you, but try...Ooooh let me see...a letter?

Treat social media as it should treated - a social disease

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A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT 10:47

"A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT 10:47"

Is not a threat it is a statement. If a bomb were placed outside your home you would be glad to be warned of it by such a statement.

If there is no bomb and no reasonable cause for suspecting there is one then it is a nuisance and a minor one which any sensible person who doesn't have any real expectation of being blown up wouldn't give a second thought to.

You would think someone who gets paid for writing words wouldn't talk such shit about words they read.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Threats and statements

>"A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT 10:47"

>Is not a threat it is a statement

And if you make such a statement knowing it not to be true and intending to cause anxiety or distress to the recipient, then (though IANAL) I suspect you are committing an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.

I don't have any problem with the authors of such threats of violence being hauled up before the bench and punished. My worry is that some activist group is doing this to provoke politicians into forcing on-line media to install complaint mechanisms that can then be used to suppress opinions XXX or YYY group don't like. A bit like getting things put in the porn filters.

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