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Twitter May Have to Testify to U.K. Lawmakers Over Sexual Abuse

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. lawmakers may question officials from Twitter Inc. about abusive postings on the microblogging site directed at female members of Parliament and a feminist, the head of a House of Commons committee said.

Lawmaker Stella Creasy reported abusive Twitter messages, including a rape threat, to police yesterday. A second member of the Commons, Claire Perry, and Caroline Criado-Perez, who staged a successful campaign to have the author Jane Austen commemorated on a banknote, also complained about sexual abuse online. A 21-year-old man was arrested two days ago in the Manchester area on suspicion of harassment and released on bail yesterday, according to London’s Metropolitan Police.

“The committee has already decided that we will have an inquiry into the whole issue of protecting people from harmful content online,” John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s “World at One” program today. “This does fall within it so I think it’s very likely that we would want to talk to Twitter about that as well.”

Whittingdale said companies such as Twitter need to consider how to prevent such online abuse.

“I think the ease with which people can post on a site like Twitter -- and it can be done in a moment and then remain there -- has made it a bigger problem, and that is obviously something we need to look at, and the big companies who provide social media need to think about what more action can be taken,” he said. “The second issue is to what extent the companies will cooperate in identifying the people responsible where it is plain that an offense is being committed.”

E-mails to Twitter’s press department and spokeswoman Rachel Bremer in London weren’t immediately returned.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eddie Buckle in London at ebuckle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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