Over the last couple of weeks, publications have extensively covered the racist and sexist troll campaign waged against actress Leslie Jones, star of the new Ghostbusters film. While unwarranted attacks can’t be completely eliminated in a society that values free speech, there are several things companies can do to protect themselves and to mitigate damage.
First and foremost, if you’re the victim of a true troll campaign that violates platform policies, go the platform complaint team. To Twitter’s credit they moved to ban the offending troll campaign leader (I won’t give him any visibility here by mentioning his name) and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, directly reached out to Jones to offer his help. The company also released a statement:
“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter, but no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others…We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree. We are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to better allow us to identify and take faster action on abuse as it’s happening and prevent repeat offenders.”
This is part of Twitter’s excellent statement. Here’s a link to Twitter’s page with instructions on how to report any violations of their policies.
While all abusive campaigns against individuals or companies may not garner the attention of Dorsey, in addition to contacting the complaint team there are measures that can help mitigate an attack:
- Be aware. While it may seem like common sense, many companies don’t monitor their social media channels 24/7. We help our clients implement tools and efforts that identify both trolls and complaints. This is critical in a world where negative social media posts and campaigns can escalate quickly.
- Plan for the worst. Always have a social crisis plan in place that outlines triggers, process, content, and specific responsibilities.
- Know when to ignore it. Many times an angry person or group of people may use a social platform to state negative things about the company based on personal experience. They get it off their chest and move on. We’ve helped clients know when to silently monitor and when to react. Obviously if the person has a valid complaint about a product or service, the company should develop messaging and respond.
- Take it offline. Most negative comments aimed at companies are based on having a direct experience or a person’s disagreement with company actions or policy. Whether based on specific action or random experience, respond to the person and ask them to DM you so you can help them via direct, private conversations.
- Be sincere. Don’t use DMs or responses as a way to sweep the issue under the carpet if this is valid opinion or concern. Treat the person with respect and genuinely try to help. Our team recently helped a client communicate with a customer that had a valid customer service complaint that wasn’t being addressed. And remember, not every interaction has to happen online. Don’t underestimate the power of the telephone. Oftentimes, a complaint is exaggerated online, but when that person is responded to directly and personally, more often than not the issue can be resolved in a matter of minutes.
Leslie Jones tried to address the Twitter troll attacks and she became frustrated with the viciousness of the comments and left the platform. Being silenced by trolls only plays into their hand. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have tremendous value as a way to communicate with the majority of people who just want to engage with your company and be heard. Social platform companies are now being more aggressive about removing trolls. We also have to do our part and file complaints against those that harass and victimize.
To Leslie Jones I say that I’m sorry you had to endure the harassment of sexist and racist bullies. Our society has to do a better job of protecting people from these kinds of attacks. Twitter is now doing more to help and hopefully other platforms will continue to do their part. Leaving isn’t the answer. Come back, Leslie. We need you online, exercising your right to freedom of speech. We’re with you.