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Leslie Jones (Ghostbusters 2 Actress) and Cyberbullying

I'm not sure if our friends across the Pond know about Leslie Jones, but she is an African American comedienne in the "Ghostbusters 2" film and also appears on our weekly "Saturday Night Live" show. She has been the target of a vicious, racist cyber attack. First, she was bullied off of Twitter. Hackers have now infiltrated her web site and have posted her personal life online.

I was reading an article about the events of the hours on Twitter that led up to Jones leaving the site. I am no celebrity, of course, but I went through something similar in 2011 and stayed off of Twitter for several months. The methods of the cyber bullies were identical, including making up a fake account and sending out tweets to make it look like it was Jones. The same thing happened to me.

I'm not sure there is a solution to any of this, except to support each other very publicly when someone you know is under attack. Jones unfortunately made the mistake that I did in 2011, which was to retweet and respond to each troll's attack. Soon they overwhelmed her like a tsunami.

However, there is something you can do if you find yourself in Jones's shoes:

Recently, I responded to a political tweet from one of my followers, and I didn't realize he was also a troll -- with thousands of trolls. Luckily for me this time around, I recognized the situation and rather than respond to each one, I just blocked, blocked, blocked, blocked -- all without comment.

The last one I blocked sent me a hateful tweet with the phrase at the end, "I guess you'll block me, too," which let me know that they were discussing the fact that I was blocking them!

I blocked without comment, and the trolls stopped.

This was a strategy that I learned right here on the Cybersmile forum and through their Twitter account!

So all of this is to say: 1) Let's support each other when we see someone under cyber attack, even if you don't know the person. It will help them a lot emotionally. And 2) Block without commenting, as if the person is a gnat buzzing in your ear at a campfire while you're toasting marshmallows. That one silent action sends a very powerful message.

And then report them.
Great advice Heidi. Sending someone a message of support can make all the difference, even if you don't know them. The feeling of isolation along with what judgements you think others are making about you can be overwhelming.
Twitter does have the tools to lessen the risk of negative and abusive Tweets, don't try and counter the abuse and concentrate your efforts on blocking/deleting and non retaliation. Control what you can, and don't try to control what you can't.
Twitter can be used as a weapon by groups of people and I think this is a sensible way of dealing with it if it happens to you. I would like to see some kind of automated way of tracking the trolls and keeping them off Twitter. Who needs them?
Thanks, Cyberninja,

And I just saw on Cybersmile's Twitter feed that Twitter has expanded its tools to deal with trolls. I have to wonder if this is in response to the Leslie Jones situation, because Twitter's CEO actually DMed her to discuss the issue, according to news reports.

It's problematic, but thanks to organizations like Cybersmile and good people who will look out for each other, I think we can combat the darkness, one troll at a time.

In reply to Jules92

Thanks, Jules,
I haven't had a chance yet to study Twitter's new "troll tracking" tool. Neck-deep in work at the moment. But hopefully this weekend I will have a breather where I can dig and see how effective it is. When I figure it out, I may post another entry about whether it seems good or not.
At least they are making an effort -- these problems have gone on for a quite a while with virtually no response from Twitter. Maybe Leslie's problems with trolls triggered action. Let's hope.
I've seen the tools Twitter are rolling out to users and they are designed to give more control over what content/tweets users are exposed to. I don't think that the features actually track trolls, rather help you to block out what Twitter are calling 'low quality' content. I feel the same as Jules on this one, if the technology exists to spot abusive account holders then surely it can be used to identify and ban them?

In reply to Cyberninja

I've been buried in work, so I apologize for being absent from the forum, but thank you for your reply, Cyberninja.

Both you and Jules make a compelling point.

This is all conjecture on my part, and I'm not a lawyer ... but it could be that the "freedom of speech" laws we have in this country may be in play. Twitter is headquartered in San Francisco, CA. They may have a lawyer on staff who is advising what they can and can't do under U.S. freedom of expression laws without facing lawsuits from the very trolls themselves. This is all just me spitballing -- I have no idea -- but that's my guess.

Because I have personally become heavily involved in tweeting about our Presidential election, I have taken some "pre-emptive steps" against trolls. It takes a little bit of time out of my day/week, but when I have a few moments, I do this:

I type in the hashtag of a political subject trending on Twitter in the search bar. You will get a streaming line of all of the tweets of people talking about that subject. I then scan it for tweets from people who are obvious trolls. We all know trolling behavior, and it's easy to spot.

Then I just block them.

I know, it'probably sounds like an extreme step on my part, to go out of my way to look for trolls on hashtags and block -- even if they have not interacted with me. But if I've learned one thing about Twitter, it's this: If you are vocal about a subject or an issue, eventually, those trolls will visit your bio page and harass you. Nine times out of 10, they will. So I'm just saving myself future stress by blocking them before they can get to me.

I don't think everyone needs to do this ... but given the acrimony that our election has generated over here, if you are vocal about it on Twitter, you're calling attention to your timeline ... and the trolls can't help themselves. They come knocking whether you want them to or not.

So for me, it's been an effective method to beat them to the punch.

Thanks for the replies to the thread -- this has been a great discussion.