Leslie Jones Situation Shows Real-World Cyberbullying At Its Core

As heartbreaking as it it, cyberbullying affects us all. When it comes to Leslie Jones, the star of the Ghostbusters reboot, BBC News reports the cyberbullying apparently directed by Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos only highlights just how rampant cyberbullying has become.

The situation involving Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, who has been targeted for everything from being in a reboot of a beloved 1980s classic film to simply being an African-American female, is horrifying. I can only imagine how dreadful it must have felt to be in her shoes and to read incredibly hateful things written about her. Small wonder Leslie Jones left Twitter the other day, saying that she was leaving social media with a “sad heart.”

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The cyberbullying that targeted Leslie Jones is only a reflection of the cyberbullying that so many in the real world have been targeted with over the years. According to NoBullying, statistics from 2014 shows that 25 percent of teenagers report that they have experienced bullying multiple times via their cell phone or online. Cyberbullying affects all races, according to the website, and 10 to 20 percent of those surveyed experience cyberbullying regularly, like Leslie Jones.

In response to being permanently banned by Twitter, Yiannopoulos, a conservative and a supporter of Donald Trump, said that his suspension confirmed that Twitter was promoting itself as “a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.”

However, Twitter emphasized that it was doing what it could to reduce the cyberbullying that might continue online for Leslie Jones and for others.

Tech Crunch released a statement from Twitter which stated in part, “We have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted.”

That was a clear sign the company wants to decrease the cyberbullying it also saw, particularly in the Leslie Jones matter.

The question remains: Why does it frequently take cyberbullying of a public figure, such as Leslie Jones, for policies to change and for people to take notice? One of the last times that Twitter was called out for allowing hateful images to be posted was when Zelda Williams, daughter of late comedian Robin Williams, was targeted on Twitter in the days following her father’s death.

According to DoSomething.org, 75 percent of teens surveyed have visited a site where other kids have been bashed openly. No matter how you look at it, that is a stunning and sickening figure to consider. What Leslie Jones and her situation reminds us is that it’s not just kids that are open targets for cyberbullying — it’s also adults. Unfortunately for Leslie Jones, because she appeared in a movie that was hated almost from the second word got out that an all-female Ghostbusters was coming, she is bringing a whole new light to cyberbullying once again.

Leslie Jones has the right to enjoy her hard-earned success. Like so many others before her, she is being bashed for any one of a number of reasons, but that does not entitle anyone to engage in cyberbullying. It was not just Milo Yiannopoulos who engaged in the hateful tweets; he is one of a number of internet trolls out there who somehow take pleasure in encouraging others to lash out for no other reason than they exist.

I was gratified to see just how many came out in support of Leslie Jones online and slammed the cyberbullying that was going on. Dan Ackroyd of the original Ghostbusters called the trolls “insignificant gnats,” a comment which I rather enjoyed, and perhaps Ghostbusters director Paul Feig put it best when he said that a cyberbullying attack against Leslie Jones was really something that affected all of us.

“Leslie Jones is one of the greatest people I know. Any personal attacks against her are attacks against us all. #LoveForLeslieJ @Lesdoggg,” Feig tweeted about the rampant cyberbullying.

Sure, Leslie Jones is not the first person, and she, sadly, will not be the last person to experience and try to expose cyberbullying. What’s sad to me is that, firstly, it even exists, but secondly, very few seem to want to do anything about the situation until it is a celebrity that becomes involved in the matter.

[Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images]