Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London made a landmark decision to jail a Twitter user for making violent and abusive rape threats against Stella Creasy, Labor MP for Walthamstow. The crime is outlined in section 127 of the U.K.’s Communications Act, which prohibits digital messages found to be “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”
The user, Internet blogger Peter Nunn, only sent six messages, but they were found to be persistent and across different accounts, even after his original Twitter handle was blocked. Nunn started his threats after Creasy backed a measure to put Jane Austen on the British £10 banknote. Nunn compared Creasy to a witch and then went into descriptions on how to best rape a witch:
“Best way to rape a witch, try and drown her first, then just as she is gagging for air, that is when you enter.”
“Hi, it took Twitter 30 minutes to ban me before. I’m here again to tell you that I’ll rape you tomorrow at 6pm.”
“I heard in the news that you are soon going to be raped. Will this be done by a massive black guy? Go away.”
After receiving the threats, Creasy installed a panic button in her home. In a statement after the hearing, she said, “Today’s sentence for Peter Nunn is a step forward in recognizing the distress and fear online harassment can cause. We now need to ensure our police and criminal justice services are better trained to identify the risks anyone receiving threats faces, whether these are made on or offline so that we can protect those being stalked.”
There are currently no such laws in the U.S.