Nearly 6,000 online threats reported to police force in four years

Northumbria Police has received almost 6,000 cases of online threats to women - including harassment, stalking and death threats - over the past four years, according to shock new figures.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 21st December 2018, 5:00 am
Twitter logo. Pic by PA.
Twitter logo. Pic by PA.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests put to 47 of the UK’s police constabularies from human rights organisation Amnesty International have revealed that across the 38 police forces that provided data, 64,492 cases of online violence towards women have been logged since 2015.

In Northumbria alone, a shocking 5,887 reports have been made since 2015.

The statistics showed that incidents of stalking and harassment threats online hit a high of 2,569 in 2017/18, a figure which fell to 815 in 2018/19.

Amnesty now says it wants social media companies to take online violence and abuse more seriously and believes that platforms like Twitter have a responsibility to ensure women feel safe using their platforms.

The organisation’s Write for Rights campaign is calling on Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey to make Twitter a safer space for all users by enforcing its own rules on hateful conduct and abuse.

Police chiefs say they have recently launched a cyber stalking toolkit which offers advice to victims.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “These police figures make it patently clear that social media can be an incredibly toxic and dangerous place for women.

“Thousands of women are feeling so threatened by online violence and abuse that they’re having to ask the police for help, and these figures are likely to just scratch the surface of what is a much larger problem.

“Amnesty’s previous research has shown that for far too long social media companies, like Twitter, have been a space where women can too easily be confronted with death or rape threats, and where their genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations are under attack.

“Recently we’ve seen a great wave of solidarity and activism from women around the world, and Twitter has an important role in movements like #MeToo.

“But the online space must be made a safer place where women can express themselves freely without fear of violence.”

Dame Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, said: “Victims of cyberstalking and harassment can often feel very vulnerable and powerless and we want to make sure they get the opportunity to take back the control in their lives.

“Following an application I made to the Home Office for funding in 2017, a specialist team has been set up within Northumbria Police to ensure we remain at the cutting edge of the investigation of cyber-based crime.

“The force have also recently launched the ‘Cyber Stalking Toolkit’ which offers practical advice to victims of cyber-related domestic abuse crimes, as well as giving frontline officers and staff comprehensive guidance how to ensure people’s social media accounts, smart phones and devices are as safe as possible.

“This toolkit shows how skilled and prepared Northumbria is at tackling the issue.

“No-one should live in fear.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Hall, of Northumbria Police, said: “Cyber-crime is a complex and ever-increasing part of our work which links in with other priority areas such as child sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.

“The internet brings with it many benefits, but it can also be a frightening place for women who find themselves targets of online abuse and misogyny.

“This threat is not only physical, but can have a huge psychological impact on victims.

“We are taking a robust response by tackling offenders and ensuring the most vulnerable people in our society remain safe from online predators.

“As technology evolves, so do these types of crimes and we are constantly evolving our responses to the digital threats that many victims face.

“We would always encourage anyone who is a victim of online abuse to contact police.”