Leslie Jones’ Second Online Attack Points to Anti-Black Woman Sentiment in the U.S.
Leslie Jones is a survivor of one of some of the most vicious civil rights violations, and it was all done in front of millions. In July, the celebrated comedian and star of the rebooted “Ghostbusters” was victimized by a mob of racist, sexist, and verbally violent Twitter users who unleashed a barrage of hate-filled messages. The ordeal became so incessant that she stepped away from using the social-media platform altogether, prompting a conversation about what, if any, duty such online networks have in protecting its users from emotional, sexual, and verbal assault.
Unbelievably, just one day after Ambrosia for Heads reported on the growing problem of online trolling, Jones has once again become the target of unconscionable civil rights violations in the Internet Age. As reported by the New York Times, her personal website was hacked and those responsible committed the reprehensible act of publishing explicit personal photos as well as her driver’s license and her passport. In the digital era, the publication of illegally obtained nude photos is akin to sexual assault in person, with victims left to deal with not only the embarrassment, but also the potential for psychological damage and threat to emotional well-being. While official confirmation that the photos are in fact of Ms. Jones is still pending, the Times reports ” the address on the driver’s license appeared to correspond with information about Ms. Jones that is available through public records,” which seems to suggest the hackers were also able to access her personal pictures.
In the hours since the news broke, Jones has received an outpouring of support (she’s currently trending on Twitter, although it appears she has been inactive since yesterday, August 23) and the Times included words from Questlove, who tweeted “These acts against Leslie Jones are sickening. It’s racist & sexist. It’s disgusting. This is hate crimes. This ain’t ‘kids joshing round.'” And, according to Brendesha Tynes, a professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California who specializes in social media and cyberbullying, he’s right.
Tynes tells the Times that the disturbing assault on Jones is indicative of a “serious anti-Black woman problem in the U.S.” Female athletes of color like Olympic gold-medalist Gabby Douglas have recently been the victim of online attacks, as have millions of others. Tynes added that “attacks like these could have serious consequences on a victim’s mental health, including symptoms of depression and anxiety,” a terrible fact that only gets worse when considering the sheer amount of people who report being the target of online attacks.
As reported by Ambrosia for Heads, 70% of those aged 18-24 have experienced online harassment. That means there are millions of young people with potentially debilitating mental-health issues stemming from online attacks. Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) has in the past reported that of the 4,000 cases of online abuse filed online, 70% are filed by women. Unfortunately, according to a 2014 investigation by Alternet, statistics specific to the experiences of Black women are harder to come by but it’s possible the attention Ms. Jones’ experiences have been given could lead to a more thorough study.
For more information on online harassment, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center.