NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Actress Ashley Judd this week became the latest celebrity to fight back against cyberbullies who have threatened her with what has been summed up in hashtag form as #OnlineGenderViolence.”
Judd said she is getting even more backlash after saying she would press charges against the bullies who threatened her with physical and sexual violence, just for a pro-Kentucky basketball tweet.
In a Mic.com article, Judd wrote that during the championship game on Sunday, she “didn’t much care for three players bleeding on the court, and I tweeted that the opponent was ‘playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.’ The volume of hatred that exploded at me in response was staggering.
She wrote that the tweets rolled in, calling her an assortment of misogynistic names, and even threatening rape.
“My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked,” Judd wrote. “Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my ‘grandmother is creepy.’”
And Judd wrote that when she started to push back, she was flooded with dismissive responses.
“The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description,” she wrote.
But Judd wrote that even before Sunday, she had already begun researching what actions to take against “gender-based violence” on Twitter. She noted that she is a survivor of sexual assault, rape and incest, and many of the tweets triggered her trauma.
“It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more,” she wrote.
CBS2’S Sonia Rincon talked Friday with an expert about dealing with online harassment.
Internet security lawyer Parry Aftab said celebrities like Judd and Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who raise awareness of the problem sometimes inadvertently make it worse — if they address the trolls directly.
“That’s what they’re looking for. When you’re dealing with someone who’s famous, you are now giving them your fame,” Aftab said. “You’re going to tweet back to them. All of the sudden, they have your Twitter followers who are watching what they’re doing.”
Aftab said it may be difficult to do in a forum as public as Twitter, but she said celebrities need to discreetly wage war on the bullies.
“You can take them on. You can put them behind bars. You can take their computers away from them. You can shut down their accounts. That’s the way to deal with it,” she said. “Not engaging in the name-calling as well.”
Several men who bullied Schilling’s daughter online did face real consequences, like getting suspended from school or getting fired.
Aftab said there are state and local laws treat online harassment as seriously as in-person harassment — especially in New York.
“There’s a federal statute as well, called the cyber-stalking statute,” she said. “And the FBI can help investigate those cases.”
But recently, Twitter’s chief executive officer Dick Costolo admitted his company wasn’t doing enough, saying as much in a company memo.
“We suck at dealing with abuse. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues….” he wrote. “I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this.”
Aftab said the best kind of justice for cyberbullying does not just involve consequences for harassers, but support for the victims. She said there has to be a positive outpouring, as is being seen with Judd now with the trending #OnlineGenderViolence hashtag.