Tribeca 2018: Netizens

Sexual assault attorney Carrie Goldberg in her office with a client in Netizens, directed by Cynthia Lowen. Courtesy of Train of Thought Productions.

Netizens is a documentary that offers an in-depth look at cyber harassment and what is and isn’t being done to stop it.

Cyber harassment is one of the worst things about the internet.  Nobody is immune to the dangers of the abuse in the digital era.  What first-time director Cynthia Lowen does is offer insight into what these women are doing as a way of fighting back against the harassment.  Lowen follows three women, including cyber terrorism victim, Tina Reine, attorney Carrie Goldberg (whose firm represents victims of stalking, blackmail, and sexual assault), and Feminist Frequency creator and executive director Anita Sarkeesian.  In addition to these three, Lowen gets insight from others, including advocates and legal experts such as former federal prosecutor Wesley Hsu.

Goldberg lauched her law firm as a result of online harassment.  What she is doing is providing a service to others in the fight.  Someone has to do the job!  Reine had a solid career going until her ex-boyfriend decided to ruin her reputation.  What Sarkeesian does through her organization is offer critiques of how women are represented in video games.  These could include strategic butt coverings to camera angles and clothing.  Unfortunately, Sarkeesian’s critiques result in frequent threats over social media.  Nobody should have to endure any of that and sites like Twitter need to step up their game by banning these users.

A former federal prosecutor, Wesley Hsu, makes the argument that cyber threats ought to be a case of national security.  It’s a solid argument since there’s really no reason why such threats aren’t considered to be a threat to national security.  Someone’s personal information can be made available without as much of a moment’s notice and the government isn’t doing anything about it.

Take a site like Craigslist, for example.  One of attorney Carrie Goldberg’s clients had filled out multiple complaints to no avail.  It came as the result of her information being doxxed.  People were coming to her home and where she worked.  These kind of websites have got to accept some sort of responsibility.  It should be noted that the Craigslist personal ads are no longer displayed on the site as a result of the FOSTA bill, which holds websites liable for any prostitution ads.

What a lot of people don’t understand and Lowen manages to drive the point home through the film’s approach:  people end up losing jobs or deal with psychological trauma as a result.  It’s important to speak out about the injustices and step up the battle.

With such an intense focus on cyber bullying and harassment, Netizens is such a timely documentary for the Me, Too era.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Cynthia Lowen
FEATURING:  Carrie Goldberg, Anita Sarkeesian, Tina Reine, Soraya Chemaly, Jamia Wilson, Mary Anne Franks

An official selection of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, Netizens will hold its world premiere as a Special Screening.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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