Twitter CEO responds to racist Ghostbusters attacks

  • 20/07/2016
Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones (AAP)
Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones (AAP)

A Ghostbusters star quitting Twitter after being targeted by a racist, misogynistic hate campaign is urging the service to make positive changes.

Much of the most recent abuse has been directed at star Leslie Jones and was generated by followers of notorious online troll Milo Yiannopoulos. Following an outcry in response, the anti-feminist #GamerGate leader has since had his Twitter account suspended permanently for "repeated violations".

Jones, who plays Patty Tolan, addressed the attacks in a series of emotional tweets, retweeting some of the abuse - including comparisons to an ape, saying she causes AIDS and several degrading comments about her looks.

Her final tweet announced she was leaving the social media service.

Paul Feig's Ghostbusters has been targeted by angry groups online since it was announced, which have been successful in flooding its trailers and IMDb user score with low ratings and dislikes.

But since the film's release, many of the attackers have become more specific in directing their abuse at Jones, the only black main cast member.

"I know there is racism. But [am] I that naive to think that some things was changing? Yes, I was. We still live in a world where we have to say 'black lives matter.' I'm so tired of it," wrote Jones.

"It's so sad. Most of these comments sound like they are from ignorant children… You have to hate yourself to put out that type of hate. I mean, on my worst day I can't think of this type of hate to put out. I don't know how to feel.

"I'm numb. Actually numb. I see the words and pics and videos. Videos, y'all. Meaning people took time to spew hate, like no shame or compassion for human life. It scares the f**k out of me!"

Jones issued a plea to Twitter to moderate its content more strictly and not to allow such abuse. Several high-profile celebrities tweeted support for the Saturday Night Live regular, but it wasn't enough to stop her from leaving.

The abuse Jones suffered intensified dramatically when Yiannopoulos started mocking the actor on social media. Calls were made for Yiannopoulos to have his account banned for encouraging hate speech – calls that have since been answered by Twitter's ban.

Over the past year, Twitter has taken steps to show it takes harassment seriously such as banning revenge porn, issuing new anti-harassment rules, establishing a trust and safety council and de-verifying high-profile users like Yiannopoulos that it considers abusive.

The provocateur infamously complained to the US government in the White House about having his Twitter verification tick taken away after gaining access under the guise of being a journalist.

"We've taken action on many of the accounts reported to us by both Leslie and others," a Twitter spokesperson told Buzzfeed.

"We rely on people to report this type of behaviour to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realise we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also responded directly to Jones, asking her to private message him, before the resulting Yiannopoulos ban.

These responses from Twitter are cause for hope that the company is prioritising making their service safer for users.