A violent Twitter message depicted in NETIZENS.
NETIZENS delves into the lives of three women whose lives have been transformed by online harassment. Carrie Goldberg is an attorney in New York City, who launches an internet privacy and sexual assault law firm in the wake of her own cyber harassment. Tina Reine, in West Palm Beach, is a successful businesswoman whose career is derailed after an ex-boyfriend creates numerous reputation-harming websites. San Francisco-based Anita Sarkeesian is the creator of a popular web-series, “Feminist Frequency,” critiquing representations of women in video games, who is the target of a cyber-mob’s ongoing campaign of rape and death threats.
Through an intimate, vérité approach, NETIZENS depicts the many forms digital abuse can take: non-consensual pornography, cyber-stalking, threats of violence, privacy invasions, impersonation, character attacks. The film challenges the notion cyber harassment is “only” online, showing the repercussions on targets’ lives: lost jobs, thwarted educations, damaged reputations, offline harassment and stalking, and countless hours devoted to containing attacks against a backdrop of mounting legal fees and psychological distress.
While law enforcement lags behind the crimes, the film’s subjects seek justice on their own terms. Carrie's law firm takes off in the midst of the #MeToo movement; Tina reclaims her identity by speaking out about her experiences; and Anita creates a new series about women written out of history. NETIZENS bears witness as a courageous wave of individuals transform the web as we know it.
NETIZENS also features
SORAYA CHEMALY – She is the director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, advocating for women’s freedom of expression online and working with tech companies and policymakers to reduce internet violence against women.
DANIELLE KEATS CITRON – She is a chief legal scholar on cyber civil rights and author of the groundbreaking book, “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” exploring how the law can be used to prevent and redress cyber harassment.
MARY ANNE FRANKS – She is a law professor at the University of Miami and is the Tech and Legislative Policy Director at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, helping to craft state and federal anti-harassment legislation.
WESLEY HSU – As the Section Chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Unit, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Hsu’s team is at the forefront of prosecuting high-profile federal internet privacy cases.
JAMIA WILSON – She is a journalist and the the executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press. As the former executive director of Women, Action and the Media (WAM!), Jamia is a leader in social justice and women’s rights, advocating for gender equality in tech to reduce gendered online harassment.
Director's statement from Cynthia Lowen
The web is perhaps the most important public space in our communities, integral to expression, employment, education and opportunity. But as a result of cyber harassment, violent threats, impersonation and privacy violations, people’s careers are destroyed, their safety is jeopardized, their reputations are demolished, their relationships frayed. And what happens online has profound ramifications offline: many targets have their home and work addresses posted, presenting urgent threats. Many receive violent messages that radically proscribe their freedom of movement and daily routines. Others face the humiliation of explaining to potential employers why ‘revenge porn’ or other reputation-harming material surfaces in Google searches of their name. Those who are impersonated on dating sites are inundated with unwanted sexual advances. People in abusive relationships are under constant surveillance by abusers equipped with location data, stalking tools and a plethora of “revenge porn” websites. AND IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. My aim with this film is to encourage audiences to hold tech companies accountable for our privacy and safety; to demand that our policymakers enact protections against bad actors who are weaponizing these technologies; and to feel empowered to stand up to digital abuse, and take part in reducing violence and shaping our digital communities.
I hope you’ll join us!
– Cynthia Lowen