By Sara Ashley O’Brien December 20, 2016 08:55AM EST
2016 will be remembered as the year that Donald Trump, a reality TV star and real estate mogul with zero political experience, was elected president. But it will also be remembered as a year of heightened, vicious online harassment.
No one was safe from the vitriol. Black celebrities, Jewish journalists, white college students. The trolls latched on to the most minute of things and ran with them — spewing racist rants and death threats with abandon.
SNL comedian Leslie Jones was inundated with racist tweets and had her personal information exposed and website hacked. Reporter Julia Ioffe, who wrote a profile on Melania Trump for GQ, was targeted with antisemitic tweets, including a cartoon of a man being shot execution-style.
Sports reporters Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain were harassed so aggressively that they made a video of it. Men read tweets out loud like, “One of the hockey players should beat you to death like the whore you are” and “hopefully this skank is Bill Cosby’s next victim.” “There are a lot of “c” words here,” one of the men says uncomfortably.
In 2015, game developer Brianna Wu told CNNMoney that the internet had hit rock bottom. She received more than 100 death threats that year alone, something she describes as “emotional terrorism.”
But she had yet to see 2016, the year when some of her attackers were publicly validated.
Trump named Steve Bannon, former executive chairman at Breitbart, as his chief strategist. Breitbart is a right-wing outlet that has become known for its incendiary content and conspiracy theories. It’s a preferred outlet for many Trump supporters and gained increased visibility throughout the election.
People like Wu have been the subject of some of its incendiary articles, which have spurred more online harassment. It has run stories like “Double Standards: Leslie Jones’ Racist Twitter History,” which drove more online attacks on Jones.