Twitter Bans Racist Trolls Who Attacked ‘Ghostbusters’ Actress Leslie Jones, ‘Free Speech’ Debate Erupts

Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones has decided to leave Twitter after she was the target of a recent attack of racist and offensive comments by Twitter trolls that left the actress in “tears.”

According to Twitter, the harassment campaign against Jones was led by conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who was banned for life by the social media platform last night.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, reached out to Jones on twitter:

At first, Jones decided to take screenshots of the most egregious tweets, but was quickly overwhelmed by tweets calling her an “ape”, “ugly”, “the source of AIDS”, etc.

Jones tweeted: “Ok I have been called Apes, sent pics of their asses,even got a pic with semen on my face. I'm tryin to figure out what human means. I’m out.”

A Twitter spokesperson sent BuzzFeed News the following statement 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.”

Jones has also received thousands of supportive tweets, including tweets from Paul Feig, who directed and co-wrote the Ghostbusters reboot, and Katie Dippold, who co-wrote the film:

Shortly after Twitter’s decision to ban Milo Yiannopoulos, the hashtag #FreeMilo began trending on Twitter. According to Buzzfeed, “Yiannopoulos 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.”

“They made a very dumb decision right before I had the eyes of the world media on me. I think they’re going to come to regret it,” Milo said. “Anyone who believes in free speech was sent a very powerful message today, which is that you’re not welcome on Twitter.”

Many are calling Milo a hypocrite after a 2012 article he penned for the Kernel Magazine came to light. Milo writes:

There has always been abuse on the internet, but, before the social revolution, it was largely restricted to anonymous comment threads, message boards and chat rooms. Any site owner who allowed anonymous comments could reasonably be held responsible, morally and legally, for the content appearing on his site. But now there is a disturbing bleed from anonymous hatred to defamatory and spiteful language being posted under the authors’ real names using their social networking profiles. It’s as if our usual moral safeguards are being broken down by a terrifying new online landscape in which the default mode of communication is a form of attack.

He added:

Together with other commentators, I have in the past argued for verified identities on social networks, so those responsible for abuse and persecution of public figures and the vulnerable might be held accountable for their actions. That seems redundant when trolls are now so brazen they don’t care about disapproving words from their loved ones back inside Facebook when they leave furious missives using that social network’s commenting system elsewhere on the internet.

So perhaps what’s needed now is a bolder form of censure after all, because the internet is not a universal human right. If people cannot be trusted to treat one another with respect, dignity and consideration, perhaps they deserve to have their online freedoms curtailed. For sure, the best we could ever hope for is a smattering of unpopular show trials. But if the internet, ubiquitous as it now is, proves too dangerous in the hands of the psychologically fragile, perhaps access to it ought to be restricted. We ban drunks from driving because they’re a danger to others. Isn’t it time we did the same to trolls?

Jones has shared how the experience made her feel in a series of tweets, via Buzzfeed:

It’s so sad. Most of these comments sound like they are from ignorant children. ‘I’m the source of AIDS?!’ WTF!! These people hate themselves. 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 fuck out of me!

I used to wonder why some celebs don’t have Twitter accts. Now I know. You can’t be nice and communicate with fans ‘cause people crazy. As much as I love live-tweeting, posting the pics of awesome things that happen in this life I’ve been blessed with, I don’t know anymore.
As much as you want to think actors ain’t human, I want to give you something to think about. I work off pure passion for this game. I’m more human and real than you fucking think. I work my ass off. I’m not different than any of you who has a dream to do what they love. I’ve never claimed to be better or special. I just try to do my job as best as I can. Isn’t that any of us, y’all? So yeah, this hurts me! It’s like when you think, OK, I’ve proven I’m worthy, then you get hit with a shovel of hated. I’m numb.

I mean, 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. Why is this still a fight? I want to hate so bad, but I can’t because I know it doesn’t fix anything and just makes me sad. I’m not stupid to not know racism exists. And I know it will probably live on way after me. But we have to make people take responsibility, responsibility for the hate they spew. We have to stand up to it. Block [motherfuckers] but let them know they are racist and spewing hate. 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. Stop letting people get away with being ignorant. … Say something. Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones. … Be louder. I’m tired of everybody not believing they can change something. We are the people. We can change anything if we want.

I just am saddened today. Twitter, I understand you got free speech. I get it. But there has to be some guidelines when you let [hate] spread like that. You can see on the profiles that some of these people are crazy sick. It’s not enough to freeze [an] acct. They should be reported.
And for all the ‘don’t stoop to their level’ people, it’s way past that. So please have a seat. Don’t tell me how to react. ‘Cause I have every right to be offended and pissed.

… I feel like I’m in a personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.