'Ghostbusters' star Leslie Jones exposes 'personal hell' inflicted by Twitter haters

The comedian calls on Twitter to offer its users greater protection against abuse. Says Jones: "Some of these people are crazy sick."

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read

Leslie Jones has faced a flood of racist and hateful messages on Twitter.

Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

"Ghostbusters" star Leslie Jones called for stronger policies to prevent abuse on Twitter after being bombarded with racist insults and vitriolic messages on the social network.

The four female leads of the new "Ghostbusters" film -- Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Jones -- have all been targets for abuse from people upset with the decision to cast women in the reboot of the 1984 movie. As the only black member of the cast, Jones has been a victim of both sexist and racist abuse.

"Twitter I understand you got free speech I get it," tweeted Jones on Monday. "But there has to be some guidelines when you let spread like that. You can see on the profiles that some of these people are crazy sick. It's not enough to freeze acct. They should be reported."

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey responded to Jones, asking her to message him directly.

Hours after the tweetstorm, Twitter permanently suspended the account of Milo Yiannopoulos, also known as @Nero, one of the key figures accused of launching the Twitter campaign against Jones. Yiannopoulos had previously said he had "no regrets" about kicking off an online feud with the film star.

Twitter has long suffered with controlling abuse on the platform, particularly abuse leveled at women. In 2015, former Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo admitted that the social network sucked at dealing with abuse. After banning Yiannopoulos, the company reiterated that it had "not done enough" to stop trolling. Despite developing tools aimed at making it easier for users to report and curb abuse, Jones' situation proves that Twitter still has some way to go -- a fact the company acknowledges.

"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," said a spokesman for the company in a statement. "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."

The social network also shared its rules on dealing with "hateful conduct," which strongly warn against promoting violence, attacking or threatening other users, as well as warning that accounts set up with the primary purpose of inciting harm will be banned.

Users subject to abuse can take advantage of the social network's multiple tweet reporting tool, as well as its updated mute and block features to protect themselves.

'So hurt right now'

In a series of tweets on Monday, Jones said she was in a "personal hell" due to the abuse she was receiving. The actor refused to let those victimizing her silence her, though.

It is unclear whether Jones has quit Twitter altogether. Her final tweet on Monday evening said: "I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart." At the time of writing, Jones' account was still active, although she has not tweeted again since.

Update, 11:50 p.m. PDT: Added details about Twitter suspending the account of Milo Yiannopoulos.