Will Zelda's Trolls Change Twitter?

Aug 15 at 1pm

From the drought to Ebola to the Ferguson cops to Robin Williams – you probably thought the past five days make a good candidate for the worst week ever. (Maybe it left you so despairing of the human condition that you’re already shivering in the fog at Baker Beach with a tall boy, waiting for it to be five o’clock somewhere.) But then came the news that Zelda Williams, the comedian’s grieving 25-year-old-daughter, was hounded off of Twitter and Instagram by trolls. Great job, internet.

Seeing hastily photoshopped pics of your dead dad covered in bruises, and repeatedly being told it’s your fault – now that’s some coldhearted, disrespectful shit. You have to be genuinely dead inside to want to do that to someone you don’t even know. (It didn’t stop Rush Limbaugh, or Westboro Baptist Church, of course.) And Williams’s self-reproach for asking her followers to report two of her bigger nemeses because she couldn’t bring herself to open the links in their @replies, as Twitter requires if it’s going to suspend someone’s account, was even sadder.

We might have reached the breaking point for one of the internet’s most lawless aspects. Anonymous online commentary can be so irrationally vicious that even the hardy souls at Jezebel lost their patience. When Gawker Media (their parent company) refused to respond to the site’s repeated pleas to step in and stop the deluge of rape gifs, Jezebel’s editors rebuked them publicly. Twitter, for its part, responded to Zelda Williams by suspending her bullies’ accounts, with VP of trust and safety Del Harvey stating that the company is going to expand its policies “regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”

That’s pretty vague, but recognizing the severity of the problem is the first step. And hopefully, the death of one of America’s funniest people can be the catalyst. Almost 10 percent of Twitter is bots, but only humans can destroy other humans this way.

[Via: Salon; image by Chelsea Lauren via Getty Images]

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