Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times
As the popularity of social media platforms continues to rise, politicians have begun to use social media as a tool to further connect to their base and share their ideas. This has been showcased in President Trump’s substantial Twitter account, where he shares ideas, praises his supporters, and frequently criticizes fellow politicians and world leaders. Social media has grown to play even more of a role in US politics since the 2018 midterm elections as the new younger representatives, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, emerged as social media experts. Ocasio-Cortez, a representative from New York who is the youngest woman to ever serve in congress, has gained an Instagram following of 3 million, putting her at the center of the democratic party. But this impressive following has also made her the new target for right-wing internet trolls.
This significant amount of online harassment began this past January when an innocent video of a college-aged Ocasio-Cortez dancing on a rooftop went viral. Although the original sharing of this video was intended to discredit her, Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters flipped the story to discuss how right-wing internet trolls wanted to make her seem undeserving of her position in congress. In the end, the response from her and her supporters gained much more attention than the original post.
But later that month, the trolling took a turn for the worse when a nude-photo hoax went viral. Before it was posted and discredited on Reddit, the nude photo said to be of Ocasio-Cortez was making rounds in the outskirts of the conservative internet for at least a month. But despite the fact that the photo was proven to be fake, news outlets, such as the Daily Caller, continued to use the hoax as clickbait for their articles.
But rather than ignore the situation, Ocasio-Cortez responded strongly on Twitter, condemning the right-wing trolls and the Daily Caller for their “completely disgusting behavior,” and adding that, “Women in leadership face more scrutiny. Period.” This tweet brings about an interesting point on whether or not women in power, especially women who are minorities, face more backlash and criticism than male, non-minority politicians.
When Brooklyn Tech sophomore, Aika Kaufman, was asked about her thoughts on the issue, she shared that she believes, “Online harassment disproportionately targets women, specifically women of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community. Women online are under so much pressure to look a certain way, speak with a certain tone, even to wear certain colors, while their male counterpart never hears anything about the way he looks or carries himself… This online harassment deters women from begin in positions of power and is often times brushed off and not taken seriously.”