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Lewinsky: Internet Trolls Should Be Time’s Person of the Year

Monica Lewinsky suggested on Wednesday that Internet trolls should have been selected as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

“If Time Magazine had asked my opinion about their Person of the Year (and they didn’t), I would have told them: The Trolls,” she wrote in the piece published Wednesday on Vanity Fair.

The Hill reports:

Lewinsky defined an internet troll as someone “who promotes discord by purposefully posting inflammatory comments or content.”
“It’s been quite a year for the bullying gremlins,” she wrote.

“Maybe it was even prophetic that the Warner Bros. film ‘Gremlins,’ about benevolent little creatures morphing into evil beings, and multiplying, was released in 1984. While the Internet is not quite Big Brother (yet!), it is a Habermasian public sphere and a powerful, if virtual, institution.”

She noted that trolls have been around on the internet for years.

“But this year,” she wrote, “they sprouted and proliferated, passed a tipping point, and ran rampant across the Web.”

She pointed to several people were subjected to cyber bullying, such as “Saturday Night Live” actress Leslie Jones, comedian Amy Schumer and NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

“And then, of course, there were the gremlins of the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” she wrote, the same day President-elect Donald Trump was named the magazine’s Person of the Year. “The Hackers” came in third on the list.

“The political trolls and bots overpopulated the Internet, feeding on negativity, disseminating disinformation, and becoming more vitriolic as November 8 approached. The effects, from which we are still reeling, have changed our country profoundly.”
As the year comes to a close, Lewinsky said we see “the long shadow of trolling as it impacts the lives of private individuals too.”

“Especially young people,” she wrote.

“The most horrific consequence: so-called bullycide, such as this past week’s tragic death of Brandy Vela who reportedly took her own life in front of her family after being bullied and trolled about her weight. So incidents have not abated.”
Lewinsky went on to question how to respond to such behavior. She pointed to various social media platforms that have issued announcements over the past few months on “new trolling policy.”

“We can also consider another approach,” she wrote.

“Rather than trying to clean up our messes ex post facto, we can consider engendering empathic responses and creating environments in social media that, from their initial designs, foster support, compassion, and community. Bake empathy into the cake rather than frosting it later.”

Photo credit: YouTube / Screenshot.

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