UPDATE 9/1/12, 10:48 p.m. EST: Most of the offending user's tweets have now been deleted and Millar is reporting that law enforcement is involved. He points out that fans should resist the urge to try and contact the user or punish him in some way, as the police will take care of that and the risk of getting the wrong person via Google isn't worth it.
For the last four months, someone identifying themselves as a comic book fan has been active on Twitter, with virtually every tweet visible on his history dedicated to mocking other comic book fans, professionals and bloggers. Over that time, he's managed to offend any number of people, including Laura Hudson, formerly of Comics Alliance, and Rich Johnston, who runs Bleeding Cool.
And now, the user has become so abusive to a number of members of the comics community that Mark Millar has offered to pay legal costs associated with "mak[ing] a case against him." Millar also claims to have the name and address of the user, so that the process can begin more quickly without the delay of seeking such information from Twitter.
After a fairly slow start in terms of the actual number of tweets made, the user kicked into high gear on August 30, with about half of all of his tweets being recorded during that time, as he attacked Mark Waid, Ron Marz, Gail Simone and a number of other comic book creators and industry insiders. Most of his early complaints revolved around his disdain for liberals, including repeatedly quoting things that comic creators ostensibly said that he felt made them hypocrites, but it wasn't long before he transitioned to misogynistic comments, a pattern that goes back to his earliest tweets.
"He told me my children should die of cancer and I 'need a raping'," tweeted DC Women Kicking Ass.
"Captain Marvel sucks," the user identified as John V tweeted at Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Just sayin. Put that hot little piece of blonde ----- back in black thigh highs and move on already."
It wasn't long before Marz was calling attention to the user's offensive tweets, including a number of comments directed at female creators, fans and bloggers that seemed to cross the lines of Twitter's terms of service and possibly U.S. law. It's at that point that comics writer Mark Millar, co-creator of Wanted and Kick-Ass, got involved. He blogged:
"Okay, Ron Marz just alerted his followers to this and as I read through all the posts this guy @MisterE2009 made on Twitter I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He was specifically targeting female writers, artists and comic-journalists with the most horrific abuse ranging from sexual threats to them personally or - in one case - mocking them for being a wheel-chair user.
"As male pros we maybe live in a little bubble. This might go on more than we realise. But we need to clamp down on this s--t fast... ethically, if not because many of these pros are personal friends of ours. Comics has the coolest rep with people now. It's a broad church and much less of a boys club in particular than it was when I was a kid. This kind of thing just gives us a horrible name and we owe it to ourselves as well as the pros concerned to stop it.
"So I'm asking you guys a favour. I've managed to secure this guy's name and address, but he's stateside and I'm unsure what the next step should be. In the UK, he would be charged by the police under the Malicious Communications act, but we have a lot of smart cookies on here and I know there's several US attorneys who post here regularly. If we have his details and copies of his communication, how can he be prosecuted? If any of the pros who have been attacked here would like to make a case against him I'll personally cover the legal costs. Twitter, I would imagine, can confirm his IP address if the artists make a formal complaint to the police.
"Would anyone like to help me make the next step? If we make an example of this guy and really come down hard on him legally you're pretty damn sure idiots will think twice about doing the same in future. It's not enough to just block him. He can just start up again under a new name. But a very public shaming and a news story in his local California area (with a complete list of his recent tweets to the women concerned) feels appropriate and would be a massive warning shot for others not to copy.
"I hope you feel a little scared by this @mistere2009. You should be. Anyone sent threatening messages to please get in touch privately if you prefer. My contact details can be passed along by the Millarworld mods."
Fans in the comments thread have associated a second account with the abuse, although it's unclear where they got that information. That second account appears to be connected to a man in Arlington, TX, while the principal account associated with the abuse is, according to Millar, based out of California.
Millar reports via Twitter that "This guy abusing female pros and fans just been identified. He's married, 51 years old and will receive a visit from cops tomorrow."
Whether there's any actual law broken remains to be seen; his tweets, at face value, appear repulsive and clearly harassing in nature but are worded in such a way that they don't actually cross the line into direct threats, only veiled ones. A civil case might be easier to bring, particularly for some of the women who have been sexually harassed under any reasonable definition of the term, or in the case that (as seems implied above) some users were subject to replies or direct messages not visible on John V's feed which were worse than those available for quick public consumption. In any case, one hopes that someone, particularly any fans who got swept up in the abuse, takes Millar up on his offer and decides to pursue the matter further.
Marz and other users have reported the content to Twitter as abusive, but Twitter's policy is that the victim of the abuse must report it directly. Following an e-mail inquiry on the matter, Twitter responded with a form letter that said, in part, "As a policy, we do not mediate content, including potentially offensive content. Twitter provides a communication service that allows controversial posts even though some may disagree with the content. We understand that everyone has different levels of sensitivity towards content, and that you may feel uncomfortable with the posted content. If there is something that you don’t agree with, or find insulting, it’s best to block that user."'
Of course, blocking that user doesn't actually prevent future abuse, only makes it less likely (not impossible, given retweets and replies) that you'll see it in your feed.