Man and woman admit to trolling journalist behind Jane Austen bank note

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Twitter

TwitterIn July, a vitriolic storm blew up in the UK, all over a campaign to replace Charles Darwin's image with Jane Austen's on a British banknote.

For nearly 48 hours following an announcement that the author's likeness would grace the £10 note starting in 2017, death and rape threats hurled at the campaign's backers poured in from Twitter, prompting a threatened boycott of Twitter and the company's subsequent promise to put a "Report Abuse" button on all messages.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced in December that a man and a woman had been charged with making the threats, and now the pair have confessed.

According to Sky News, Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, have both pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court to posting the messages to Caroline Criado-Perez.

Criado-Perez is the UK journalist and feminist leader who spearheaded the Jane Austen campaign.

At least one of her supporters, MP Stella Creasy, also received murder and rape threats.

According to Sky News, the court heard that the threats, flooding in from 86 Twitter accounts, included a message from Sorley in which she told Criado-Perez to kill herself and said

I would do a lot worse things than rape you.

Nimmo messaged Criado-Perez to

Come to Geordie land b****. What do you think the police will do?

Sorley told the court that she was drunk and bored when she sent the tweets, described the threats as "empty", and said that she was just "winding Ms Criado-Perez up", Sky News reports.

Both women reported that they found the tweets horrifying and frightening, Ms. Creasy feared for her own safety and that of her family, and Ms. Criado-Perez has subsequently suffered life-changing psychological effects because of the bullying.

Sorley, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and Nimmo, of South Shields, were both charged.

Sky News reports that the CPS said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute over the messages allegedly sent to Ms Creasy.

Nimmo, for his part, was described as a social recluse who claims benefits and who only leaves the home to empty the trash bins, Sky News reports.

This should not be read as any type of indictment on those who receive public benefits, of course.

What it should be read as, by anybody who's suffered or now suffers from cyberbullying or who supports its victims, is a reminder that trolls' actions can be the result of simple boredom.

As this story attests, reporting troll behavior can and does lead to arrests.

That's what Twitter put that button there for.

Ever use it?

Feel free to tell us how it worked out - or any bully-reporting action, for that matter - in the comments section below.

Image of troll courtesy of Shutterstock.

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6 Responses to Man and woman admit to trolling journalist behind Jane Austen bank note

  1. Of course trolls' actions can be the result of simple boredom. And most probably are. But they can also be the result of being a misogynistic stalker who has every intention of carrying out their threats. The problem is that you never know which.

    • Lisa Vaas · 638 days ago

      Of course you're right, and thanks for pointing it out. I had that "yes but" clause in mind when I was writing and somehow completely blanked on including it, so many thanks for filling out the logic.

  2. It seems to happen more often than not, that someone accused of wrongdoing suddenly suffers and illness or has a miraculous disability. It shouldn't be an excuse to allow mental/physical damage on another. A crime is a crime and should be punished.

  3. Anne · 638 days ago

    From 88 Twitter accounts? I doubt these are the only perpetrators...

    And, even if *none* of them were serious (and you can never be quite sure) the toll of receiving all that must be tremendous. The fact that a criminal's primary motivation is boredom doesn't make the crime less heinous.

  4. Rijacki · 638 days ago

    Even if it's only posted out of boredom, it's bullying and should have consequences to the bully because it does affect the target even if the threats are not carried through.

  5. james dupre · 638 days ago

    Another excellent reason to not have social media accounts.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.