Despite pulling in a respectable $46 million dollars during its first weekend at the box office, Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot continues to attract the very worst that the internet has to offer. Critics may have applauded the casting choices, but many Twitter trolls didn't agree, loudly spewing their venom towards the female-led cast.
Out of the four leads, Leslie Jones has unfortunately received the most hate, which appears to have almost nothing to do with her actual talent and everything to do with the colour of her skin.
Not only were the Twitter trolls openly racist towards Jones, hiding behind their anonymity, but some actively encouraged others to join them and even created fake accounts to try and besmirch the comedienne's name.
Leslie initially retweeted a number of the most hateful messages to inspire others to join her and expose the Twitter trolls for their hateful attacks.
In the end though, the pain grew too much for Leslie, prompting her to leave Twitter entirely in order to avoid more abuse from the trolls.
Following the controversy, a number of celebrities have risen up to openly support Jones, including Paul Feig, the director of Ghostbusters, whose tweet included the hashtag #LoveForLeslieJ.
The hashtag quickly began to trend following the open love and support that the celebrity community sent Leslie's way, prompting Twitter to take an uncharacteristically fast approach on dealing with the matter.
After Jones appealed directly to Twitter for help, CEO Jack Dorsey asked Leslie to send him a direct message and then released the following statement;
“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.”
Furthermore, Twitter went so far as to ban one of their most notorious users, Milo Yiannopoulos, who had actively invited his followers to hurl abuse towards Jones using the social media platform.
Unfortunately, Leslie Jones isn't the first celebrity to be driven off Twitter by the cruel hatred of its most venomous users.
While the majority of the world mourned the passing of Robin Williams in 2014, a number of Twitter trolls sent his daughter abusive messages that included photoshopped pictures of her father's body in a morgue. Understandably, Zelda Williams left Twitter soon after.
After the rapper became fed up of fans abusing her over album delays, Nicki Minaj said that;
"A voice in my head told me to delete my Twitter and that’s what I did... Like seriously, it’s but so much a person can take. Good f****** bye.”
International Welsh striker John Hartson became the subject of a particularly vile hate campaign from Twitter trolls following his recovery from testicular cancer. One message in particular sums up exactly how far these users can go unchecked;
"I hope your cancer comes back and also your girlfriend gets it and u both die from it leaving you kids with no parents."
After his former partner was found dead, the British comedian deleted his Twitter account following a disturbing tweet sent by an 16 year old troll.
Lucas responded to the abuse online, saying:
‘Shame on you. I’m not joking. I think you should delete that tweet. It really upset me.’
Demi Lovato received a lot of harassment from fans following public feuds with pop stars like Taylor Swift, leading her to abruptly leave Twitter in favour of Snapchat, where she could filter out the trolls more easily.
What Is Twitter Doing To Stop The Trolls?
After a vast number of famous people backed the #LoveForLeslieJ campaign, Twitter took swift action, highlighting how important celebrity involvement is for the social media platform's continuing success, but what about regular users?
While the company's reaction to the Leslie Jones controversy is obviously a step in the right direction, Twitter have failed to respond as quickly in the past when the victims of abuse are just regular people who don't have the same celebrity connections.
Childline receives thousands of calls due to online bullying through the social media platform, yet both the legal authorities and Twitter itself remain surprisingly ambivalent in their approach to these cases, due in part to the murky waters of legality that surround online abuse and issues of free speech.
Leslie herself argued that Twitter should hold these trolls accountable to the authorities, as freezing an account is largely ineffective against bullies who can rejoin the site with a new user name. Imagine what it's like for victims of abuse who don't have celebrity connections or the media's attention to help stand up for them in their hour of need.
Ghostbusters director Paul Feig perfectly summed up the plight of those who suffer online abuse in one simple tweet;
Unfortunately, those "few pieces of shit" are far louder than the sane majority.