As her Twitter feed filled with racist slurs and memes, hateful messages and images comparing Jones to apes — particularly Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo after a child fell into his enclosure — Jones decided to fight back: "You know I'm gonna stop blocking so y'all can go through my feed yourself," she tweeted to her 189,000 followers. "You won't believe the evil."
She retweeted a lengthy barrage of hateful images, messages and videos, and pleaded with Twitter to help her — a request that grew especially urgent after someone created a fake account under her name and used it to tweet homophobic slurs.
Over hours, Jones made her mounting frustration and devastation clear.
But her efforts to gain wider attention worked. Hundreds of fans and celebrities, including Elizabeth Banks, Margaret Cho, Anna Kendrick, William Shatner, John Boyega and many others, tweeted praise and support to Jones. Using the hashtag #LoveforLeslieJ, many joined her in demanding that Twitter take action to stop the harassment.
Twitter has long faced complaints that its abuse policy is insufficient and inconsistently implemented. Earlier Monday evening, Twitter offered this statement: "While we don't comment on individual accounts, here's an explainer on our content boundaries here" with a link to its rules. But late Monday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took notice of Jones's situation, and tweeted at her to ask that she message him directly.
"This type of abusive behavior is not permitted on Twitter, and we've taken action on many of the accounts reported to us by both Leslie and others," the statement said. "We rely on people to report this type of behavior to us but we are continuing to invest heavily in improving our tools and enforcement systems to prevent this kind of abuse. We realize we still have a lot of work in front of us before Twitter is where it should be on how we handle these issues."
It wasn't the first time that Jones has brought attention to the discrimination she faces. In June, the 6-foot star revealed that she was struggling to find a designer to make a dress for her for the "Ghostbusters" premiere. Project Runway alum Cristian Siriano ultimately created the off-shoulder, scarlet gown that Jones wore to the premiere. Siriano rejected the praise he'd received for what he said was simply doing his job.
Jones has consistently been tough on trolls and critics, often firing back with insults of her own ("I don't care how famous or how popular I am," Jones told Seth Meyers during a May appearance on his show, "if you call me a gorilla I'm gonna call your momma one"). Not all her fans are on board with this approach. On Monday, some supporters implored her to stop re-tweeting and insulting her haters, but Jones wasn't having it.
For the problem to be fixed, she argued, it had to be visible first: "I'm tired of everybody not believing they can change something," she tweeted. "We can change anything if we want."
But despite her determination, it was clear that the cumulative toll of the relentless hostility was heavy: "I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart," she tweeted as she signed off for the night. "All this cause I did a movie. You can hate the movie but the s— I got today… wrong."