Television classicist Mary Beard has revealed she was sent a bomb threat on Twitter, hours after the social networking site’s UK boss personally apologised to women who have been attacked by “trolls”.
Ms Beard, a professor of classics at University of Cambridge, said she had contacted police after receiving a message on Saturday night claiming a bomb had been left outside her home.
She wrote on her Twitter page: “Just got one of these messages. A bomb has been placed outside your home. It will go off at exactly 10:47pm and destroy everything. Told police.”
She later wrote: “OK all, it’s 11pm and we are still here. So unless the trolling bomber’s timekeeping is rotten … all is well. But how stupidly nasty.”
Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Europe editor of Time magazine Catherine Mayer, as well as a number of other women, have previously been the subject of bomb threats on the site, while two received threats of rape.
Some Twitter users are boycotting the site as a gesture against the threats and an online petition calling for Twitter to add a “report abuse” button to tweets attracted more than 124,000 signatures.
Prof Beard, 58, said yesterday: “There’s something very strangely and awkwardly insidious about it. It is scary and it has got to stop.
“I didn’t actually intellectually feel that I was in danger but I thought I was being harassed, and I thought I was being harassed in a particularly unpleasant way.”
Tony Wang, Twitter UK general manager, posted a series of tweets on Saturday saying abuse was “simply not acceptable”.
His messages came after the website clarified its rules on abusive behaviour amid the growing backlash.
Mr Wang wrote: “I personally apologise to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through. The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter.
“There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment.”
The company has updated its rules to make it clear that abuse will not be tolerated and has put extra staff in place to handle reports of abuse, it said.
The move comes as Scotland Yard said its e-crime unit was investigating allegations, by eight people, of abuse on the microblogging site.
An “in-tweet” report button has been added so people can report abusive behaviour directly from a tweet, Twitter said.
In separate incidents, Labour MP Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who successfully fought for a woman’s face to appear on £10 banknotes, were threatened on Twitter with rape. Two arrests have already been made in relation to those threats.
The anonymous Twitter accounts from which the bomb threats originated were suspended, although screen grabs were widely circulated online.
Scotland Yard said an investigation into eight allegations had been launched.
The force added the decision was taken to centralise the individual investigations, including three from outside London.