Leslie Jones Quits Twitter Following Abuse From Racist Trolls

Leslie Jones.  (Todd Williamson)

If it's even remotely possible that you know someone who -- after the past few weeks of shootings and protests -- believes racism no longer exists in America, here's a handy crib sheet to give them: Leslie Jones' Twitter account.

The actress and comedian, who by all accounts should be riding high on a big box-office weekend and generally favorable critical reception to the much-hyped Ghostbusters reboot, has instead spent the last 24 hours dealing with shockingly awful, racist vitriol on Twitter. Jones first commented on the vile images, videos and slurs aimed at her on the social network on the morning of July 18, and soon thereafter started retweeting the offensive messages themselves.

I'm not even comfortable pasting the worst of the offending tweets here -- they're disgusting, and surely triggering to many. You can scroll through her feed yourself, if you like. The RTs are interspersed with heartfelt messages from Jones.

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Those familiar with the Twitter-verse know that simply blocking and reporting an abusive account doesn't do much -- often they've been created under fake names, and the perpetrator can simply sign up again using another email address. Ask any woman who has a Twitter account, and she can probably give you at least a couple examples of such abuse. Meanwhile, the company has time and again proven itself to be woefully impotent when it comes to punishing offenders, and the legal system isn't currently set up to take online abuse as seriously as its "real life" counterparts.

Personally, I've gotten sexist crap for years, and recently I've become used to at least a few anti-Semitic crazies popping up in my mentions about once a week. They spiked after I wrote this. They will probably spike again after I hit "publish" on this post. And if that's what I get, what do you think gets lobbed at a very famous black woman with a new movie?

She gets this. Times a thousand.

Jones finally signed off last night with a few clearly pain-filled tweets.

 

A representative from Twitter issued the following statement to Buzzfeed late Monday night:

“This type of abusive behavior is not permitted on Twitter, and we’ve taken action on many of the accounts reported to us by both Leslie and others. We rely on people to report this type of behavior to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realize we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues.”

Which is, honestly, not enough. Twitter is a multi-billion-dollar company. Creating an effective policy that treats hate speech like a hate crime is a complicated task, yes -- what with the First Amendment and all -- but it's far from too much to ask. In an internal memo that leaked over a year ago, the company admitted that they "suck at dealing with abuse." What's happened since then? If they want customer loyalty, they need to share an actual plan for action, and we, the customers, need to hear that fixing this issue is priority No. 1.

In the meantime: If you want to show a little support for Jones, it seems more than a few of us could use some help restoring our faith in humanity. You'll be in excellent company.

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