It didn’t end well for anyone. But let’s back up.
Leslie Jones is a comedian, SNL star, and Twitter-commentator extraordinaire. But her relationship with Twitter has not always been an easy one. When Jones was promoting her then-upcoming movie all-female remake of the 1984 classic Ghostbusters, Jones began to receive highly racist and sexist backlash, egged on my Milo Yiannopolous.
According to Buzzfeed, “Yiannopoulos…has been hailed as a voice of the new “alt-right” movement. As such, he has made a living as a provocateur, continually inflaming tensions between progressive branches of the internet focused on identity politics and the fervently anti-PC segment that constantly trolls it. For years, Yiannopoulous has used Twitter not only to voice his controversial opinions but to direct his legion of followers (388,042 at the time of this writing) toward his opponents. As a result, he’s been temporarily banned from Twitter a number of times for violating its terms of service and stripped of his verified status.”
This kind of fervent harassment, then, is nothing new to someone like Milo.
After a while, Jones took to Twitter one final time to say:
The psychological effects that being on the receiving end of online harassment is real. One study found that even witnessing cyber harassment, let alone being the subject of it, “[can] leave a psychological effect on women, includ[ing] depression, anxiety, and likely suicide.” In Jones’s case, the abuse she received was so great she had to leave Twitter altogether, rather than continue to individually report the thousands of commenters who Tweeted at her.
Eventually, Twitter stepped in. Though founded to be a platform for anyone and everyone to have a voice, they released a statement saying:
People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter. But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Over the past 48 hours in particular, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of accounts violating these policies and have taken enforcement actions against these accounts, ranging from warnings that also require the deletion of Tweets violating our policies to permanent suspension.
We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders. We have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted. We’ll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks.
Later, Jones did decide to return to the platform, after Milo had been permanently removed. But should it have to take a person enduring horrific abuse for change to happen? Should women, especially women of color and women with additionally marginalized identities have to continually be subjected to these abuses before things actually change?