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Police probe Twitter bomb threats

Police are investigating after a number of bomb threats against women journalists were made on Twitter.

Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Europe editor of Time magazine Catherine Mayer received the tweet, which Dent recorded as a screen grab and posted for her Twitter followers to see.

The message was also sent to a number of other women, including Sara Lang, a social media manager at US campaign group AARP.

It was from anonymous user @98JU98U989 - an account which was later suspended - and said: "A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10.47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING".

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "We can confirm that the MPS has received allegations relating to bomb threats sent to a number of females on Twitter." The spokesman said inquiries were continuing and so far there had been no arrests and that no bombs actually went off.

After receiving the threat, Freeman, whose column in Wednesday's Guardian was entitled "how to use the internet without being a total loser", said on Twitter that she was calling the police, adding: "If it's illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it's illegal to threaten to bomb me." The police told her it was investigating as the threat was an "arrestable offence", and advised her not to stay at home overnight, the newspaper said.

Freeman said she had received "loads" of abuse via Twitter in the past, from both men and women, and had also received rape threats.

She said that Twitter should take a more serious approach to online abuse and threats and introduce more robust ways to deal with it, telling the Guardian: "Threatening to bomb and rape people is illegal. We need to apply the law in the same way online as we do in the real world. There should be a button to report abuse more easily. Twitter makes money - they can afford some moderators."

Dent described the threat as a "new low", while Ms Lang said police had visited her to check over her home in Washington and that she was "shaken up" by the threat. The bomb threats follow threats of rape made on Twitter against Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado Perez. More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on Twitter to beef up its procedures for dealing with abuse following the recent activity.

Del Harvey, Twitter's director for trust and safety, admitted it was not the company's policy to automatically report threatening or abusive messages to police. The website does not hold information to reveal the location a message has been sent from and therefore cannot identify the correct local police force, Ms Harvey said.

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