A 21-year-old Manchester man has been arrested for a crime every woman who writes online knows well: "malicious communication." In this case, the man is suspected of harassing UK feminist advocate and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, who was threatened with hundreds of tweets promising rape and death thanks to her work on a successful campaign to get Jane Austen on the 10 pound note.
We were under attack. It was late on an August night. I was trying not to come down with a cold and just about to go to bed. But I was also guest-blogging at Feministe that week, so I logged on to check my e-mail and moderate comments one last time before I turned in. I was already overwhelmed. Between writing timely posts, separating the trolls and spammers from the innocents in the moderation filter, and trying to maintain a civil debate between polarized commenters on my threads, I was marveling that anyone could do this week in and week out and still keep a day job.
Then I got word that a loosely organized cybermob known as Anonymous was attempting to crash feminist sites, including Feministe, flooding comments sections with misogynist rants and threatening feminist bloggers with rape and other violence. This had happened before, but never with such organized force. Privately, we worried about our safety and strategized about how to defend our sites and ourselves. Publicly, we decried these attacks in blog after blog. We knew our attackers wanted to silence us, and we refused to give them that satisfaction.
It turned out that we were wrong. Wrong about what their goals were and wrong about what our response should have been.