“I use to wonder why some celebs don’t have Twitter accounts, now I know.” – Leslie Jones
It’s strange and sad that people want to attack others, especially if they are successful. Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones recently said that she would leave Twitter, after becoming the target of online trolls who sent her a stream of pornography, racist speech, and hateful memes.
Ms. Jones, who is black, was mainly sent messages from Twitter “Loser” Milo Yiannopoulos, a so-called “advocate” for the GamerGate group. GamerGate supporters often send vile messages to women. Twitter has now banned his account, and he’s now claiming to be the “victim” because he’s gay, and Twitter hates him for that fact and banned him because of it.
In addition to that guy’s awful tweets, Leslie also received more messages from racist users in which they compared her to primates, including Harambe, the male gorilla who was shot dead in May at a Cincinnati zoo. Others sent her pornography. And yet another created a fake Twitter account that appeared to show the actress spewing hateful language.
Ms. Jones tweeted, “Ok I have been called Apes, even got a pic with semen on my face. I’m tryin to figure out what human means. I’m out.”
Paul Feig, director of the Ghostbusters reboot, spoke out in her defense on Twitter: “Leslie Jones is one of the greatest people I know. Any personal attacks against her are attacks against us all.”
Mr. Feig used the hashtag #LoveforLeslieJ to send his message, which has been picked up by other celebrities, including Margaret Cho and William Shatner, to voice support. But Mr. Feig was met with a litany of criticism and trolling, including a fake Twitter account set up in his name that sent out racist tweets.
Emails to Mr. Feig and Ms. Jones seeking comment were not immediately answered.
Twitter’s blanket response when high-profile individuals are the targets of internet trolls has been criticized as wholly ineffective. In June, Jonathan Weisman, who is an editor for The New York Times, left Twitter after receiving a barrage of anti-Semitic tweets. He complained that “Twitter appears determined to ignore its own terms of service, which also include a blanket prohibition on pornography.”
In Ms. Jones’s case, Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, publicly reached out to her about the abusive treatment she received. Dorsey’s account was also hacked earlier this month, if you recall.
Ghostbusters earned a very respectable $46 million on its debut, and all Jones wanted to do was celebrate. It seems that a lot of people are right there at the forefront (and cowering behind their keyboards), ready to attack a celebrity at a moment’s notice.
It’s especially telling that these “trolls” always attack in “virtual packs” like wolves going in for the kill, their fake camaraderie coaxing each other on to write even more bizarre and hateful things. But most of them are now silenced, banned from Twitter. Leslie has since returned to Twitter. But how long until the next group of trolls strike?
I’ve heard many people mention it before, but I don’t believe current technology is to blame for all of this. Closeted, hateful people are. Technology doesn’t know if you are racist, or hateful, or just a troll. It’s not really supposed to know. But it seems to me that a LOT of people want attention – want to be noticed, want to be famous like “Loser Milo,” even if it’s for the purpose of spewing hatred at the speed of light. Technology doesn’t hurt. People do.
However, the people behind Twitter should take responsibility for the fact that their platform is a fertile breeding ground for hateful people. It’s important that tech leaders acknowledge that they are signal-boosting vile hatred of all kinds. Their brilliant minds could be just as useful at educating others and creating online environments of kindness.