Jess Ennis has been victim to foul Twitter rape threats. (Picture: David Jones/PA Wire)

Twitter rape threats and other abuse seem to be de rigueur at the moment; everyone from athlete Jessica Ennis to author Jessica Valenti seems to have been on the receiving end of malicious tweets from these cowardly keyboard warriors.

A few weeks ago Katie Hopkins – who has been on the receiving end of plenty of Twitter abuse herself – advised Chloe Madeley, the recipient of Twitter rape threats, that she ought to just accept such threats as her ‘lot’ that comes with being in the public eye.

This is plainly wrong; why should women in the public eye accept rape threats as part and parcel when our male counterparts get comparatively less sexualised abuse? In fact why should anyone of any gender have to ‘put up’ with foul cowardly behaviour, just because of their professions? People receiving such threats need to take them seriously and notify the relevant authorities.

Police were called when Chloe Madeley received rape threats last month (Picture: Eamonn McCormack/WireImage)

And yet Hopkins has a vague point when she says of Twitter abuse, ‘Sure, it isn’t very kind but it is just kids being idiots.’ While she can’t possibly know that the harassers she speaks of are indeed the snot-nosed 12-year-old troublemakers she imagines them to be, she is probably right when she says most of them are probably harmless, if verbally vindictive, idiots.

Although this makes a rape threat no less foul nor horrifying, the likelihood of one of them actually having the gumption to hunt you down and carry out the threat is probably low. And to these gutless bullies, the best response is to expose them – be this through police intervention and court proceedings, or simply calling them out on the very social media platforms that protect them.

By pointing them out you take away their ‘power’ of frightening or embarrassing you, and put the attention onto them. The tactic seems to work for the majority of Twitter trolls.

Caroline Criado-Perez’s abuse at the hands of Twitter trolls sparked headlines and debate about cyber abuse (Picture: Chris Ratcliffe/PA Wire)

People in the public eye have quickly cottoned on to the fact that retweeting and screen-shotting abuse provides one of the best short-term remedies possible to such harassment, which relies upon anonymity.

Strip that anonymity away and nine times out of ten the troll skulks back under his or her bridge. Yes, we need longer term solutions like stronger laws against cyber abuse, but for a short-term solution exposure is very effective.

So why do trolls troll?

Part of the problem is the lack of empathy that the internet seems to encourage in its users. We’d never walk up to someone in the street and speak to them the way that some people speak to others from their faceless Twitter portals.

People don’t think twice about letting people know what they think about them online, but the reality is that written remarks are as hurtful as verbal ones.

Exposure is the only way to stop them – call them out on their foul tirades, their cruel unnecessary comments, their snobbery, whatever else they throw at you. They’re the ones attacking a stranger online – put the shame back on them.

Professor Mary Beard silenced an internet troll after naming and shaming him on Twitter. (Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Some people opt to ignore those who seek to threaten or bring them down, but I say: let your followers and friends see what these vile people are saying to you, and mock them for their faux bravado as they squirm behind their screens.

Online trolling is too easy at the moment – make it harder for them by reporting them, exposing them, and mocking them.

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