By ZEALAND MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A new playbook for online trolls emerged after a series of online attacks on Australia’s feminist film festival and its co-founder this week, with some of the attackers using misogynistic language and threatening to kidnap her.
An anonymous Twitter account that posted abusive tweets against the festival’s founder, Gillian Troughton-Smith, on Wednesday has since deleted the messages, but the account was widely reported and linked to the threats against Troughson-Smith.
The threats appeared to target Troughtons new film “Feminist” after the Australian film festival announced it would no longer be accepting submissions after a string of attacks on its founder, the outspoken feminist film critic Gillian Triggs, who is the founder and executive director of the Feminist Film & Video Festival (FVG).
The attack on the festival comes amid a backlash against Trawsons work after she was criticised for her support for the Stop Online Abuse Coalition, a campaign to fight online abuse.
The FVG’s online submission guidelines stipulate that submissions must be about the film or feature female protagonists, but many critics have criticised Trawson-Martins work for focusing too much on a male protagonist.FVG has been attacked online by trolls and cyber-bullies, including the far-right group “Stonewall United”, who have claimed that the festival is anti-feminist.
The hashtag #FVGFestival was trending on Twitter and hashtags such as #FvgFestival were being shared on Facebook, which has been accused of facilitating hate speech.
“What we have here is a toxic environment where people can come up with ideas and attacks and then go and put them out there, and that’s how they’re able to make their way onto social media,” said Sophie Dufresne, head of community and media at the National Union of Students.
“That’s why it’s so important that you use your voice and take the time to write to your representative and the film festival, because it’s not about the festival, it’s about the person behind the festival.”
The FPGF is one of several Australian films to be cancelled in recent months after a wave of attacks, including one on a Melbourne university where students chanted “We want a feminist film”.
“We can see how that has a chilling effect on people who want to express themselves,” said Ms DufRESNE.
“But it is important to remember that there is a difference between being silenced and being hurt.”
There are lots of ways to make a difference online, but this is one that we need to get involved in.
We need to be very careful to be vigilant, and to know what we’re up against, and not to give the appearance of being in their sphere of influence.”FVG spokeswoman Emma Frawley said her organisation had been in contact with Trawton-Martens representatives.”
We have not seen any threats against the Festival, but we do not want to give anything away.
The Festival has been supportive of us, and has been open to dialogue and engaging in discussions,” she said.”
Our thoughts are with Gillian, and we wish her well for the future.
“Trawton Martins film “A Day of Wartime” (2014) won the festival competition for best film in 2015.
A spokesperson for the FVG said it was “deeply saddened by the events that took place at FVG last night”.”
The festival has made an enormous commitment to protecting the rights of all its participants and to working with police to bring those responsible to justice,” the spokesperson said.
The festival had said it had no information to suggest the threats were coordinated or that they were being directed against the FPG.”FVG’s mission is to promote equality, diversity and inclusion for women in the film and video industries.
It is vital that this mission is protected by the Australian Government and industry, and the Fvg has made this commitment,” the festival said.(Reporting by Louise Taylor in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Macfie)