by Sharon Florentine

Twitter needs to stop the harassment

Jul 21, 2016
IT LeadershipTechnology IndustryVideo Games

Twitter needs to stop making excuses and start taking a stand against online harassment and abuse.

I’ve been excited about the remake of 1980s classic Ghostbusters since I first learned writer/director Paul Feig was planning a reboot. My excitement tripled when I found out the reboot would have an all-female cast, and went off the charts when casting decisions were announced. Melissa McCarthy! Kate McKinnon! Kristen Wiig! Leslie Jones!

I knew, given the rampant misogyny that exists in the film industry on social media everywhere that there would be backlash. Even before the movie was released, each new announcement, trailer and teaser’s been met with derision, hate and vitriol. But what African-American comedienne and actress, Leslie Jones, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live, has endured on Twitter simply by being herself and doing her job is a full-on psychological and emotional hit job planned, coordinated and carried out by a mob of racist, sexist and misogynistic internet users. Many of whom also participated in Gamergate and are ready at their keyboard to invade and perpetuate attacks, slurs and harassment toward women, the LGBTQ community, people of color and on pretty much anyone who dares to participate in the world as anything but a straight, white male.

These people are evil and cruel. They’re going far beyond what could be considered their right to express an opinion and they’re deliberately trying to harm another human being — in this instance, simply because they don’t like her role in a movie. A movie.

And Twitter, for all its hand-wringing and exhortations about the awfulness of what’s being done to Jones, is complicit in these attacks. Yeah, I said it. And I believe that. Yes, as of July 20, they’ve permanently banned the ring leader, Milo Yiannopolous, a notorious right-wing instigator of hate and exclusion. He and his minions have done this before and suffered little to no consequences. Why wouldn’t he feel emboldened to do it again?

I can’t imagine that Twitter, using the tech resources available to them, are unable to identify, head off and block attacks like these before they escalate. There should be steps you can take to weed out people like Yiannopolis and the armies of trolls.

The fact that it took Twitter this long to finally restrict Yiannopolis is one thing. What scares me even more is that, if this is the tepid response when a high-profile celebrity like Jones is publicly tormented and abused, what hope is there for us regular folk who are harassed and abused; we certainly can’t expect CEO Jack Dorsey to reach out to us, but the least we should be able to expect is that the media platform could step up and give us a little help. Or, apparently not.

Thanks for nothing, Twitter.