Don't tell Leslie Jones to ignore or mute her haters on Twitter
In the midst of the Taylor Swift-Kim Kardashian drama unfolding on Snapchat and Twitter, another aspect of social media is revealing itself to be much less entertaining. Leslie Jones, Saturday Night Live standout and new Ghostbusters star, is the latest victim of Twitter trolls, proving that social media can be a dangerous breeding ground for hate.
Jones left Twitter on Monday, July 18, after she was hit with a level of Twitter hatred that can only be qualified as disgusting. “I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart,” Jones tweeted after spending an entire evening exposing the racist and sexist messages she had been receiving on social media since Ghostbusters' release.
Jones is one of two black female performers on SNL and the only African American Ghostbuster in the new film, which has apparently made her a target for Twitter trolls and sexist, racist people. But Jones isn’t taking it lying down. Instead, Jones has been taking screenshots of particularly offensive tweets, reporting accounts to Twitter, and, when that didn’t work, retweeting hateful messages in the hopes that fans would help her get accounts suspended.
This isn’t the first time Jones has been subjected to the dark side of Twitter, but based on Jones’ tweets, it seems that this might be the most intense wave of hate thrown at her yet, likely due to Friday’s release of Ghostbusters. All the vitriol has gotten to Jones, who wrote that she was “numb” after reading hateful tweets and being sent videos calling her the N-word. But the vicious online attacks on Jones didn’t stop at name-calling and hate speech. Jones also shared photos of what appear to be fabricated screenshots of her own account, replacing her words with hateful and dangerous rhetoric.
Colleagues and fans of Jones were quick to defend her, with Ghostbusters director Paul Feig starting the hashtag movement #LoveForLeslieJ to support her, but others criticized her for talking back, wondering why a celebrity like herself would waste her time calling out internet trolls. “Stop saying ignore them or that’s just the way it is. Cause that’s bullshit. Everybody knows an asshole check them for their hate,” Jones tweeted late Monday night. And she’s right. Why should people, celebrities or not, ignore hate speech on Twitter?
Let’s be clear: Those saying Jones should just ignore all the verbal abuse on Twitter have no idea what she’s up against. It’s one thing to ignore a bully calling you a “bitch” on the playground; it’s another to ignore hundreds of faceless screen names on Twitter using hate speech and verbal abuse. Furthermore, ignoring this kind of abuse won’t make it stop; it will only allow it to continue. By going to Twitter Support and asking that they at least try to limit hate speech on their site, Jones is taking steps to stop the hate in its tracks. Unfortunately, it seems that Twitter has not responded to Jones’ calls for help. “Twitter I understand you got free speech I get it. But there has to be some guidelines when you let spread like that [sic],” Jones tweeted.
Here’s the thing: Hate on Twitter is not new. Hate on Twitter aimed at Jones is not new. Our response, however, can be. By continuing to call on Twitter to enhance how they identify, track and regulate accounts that frequently use racist language and hate speech, we can help make a change. At least, that’s what Jones believes.
I hope she’s right. I hope that we do have the ability to drown out the trolls and hateful people using Twitter to spread hate speech. Because the fact that Jones — an undeniably hilarious, fabulous and authentic comedian — is subjected to all this online hate is just one more sign that we are doomed unless we change the narrative.
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