It began as a standard Hollywood production -- a remake of the beloved 1984 movie, “Ghostbusters,” this time with an all-female cast.
Actress and comedienne Leslie Jones, 48, is a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and the “Ghostbusters” remake was her first starring role in a major film.
But within a few days of the movie’s release, Jones was subjected to incredibly vicious attacks on Twitter, full of racist and misogynistic slurs against the actress, with some comparing her to an ape while others calling her a man.
Many of the attacks, known as “trolling,” came from anonymous users, but not all. Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the most infamous trolls on the internet, was one of them. He is an editor at Breitbart, the conservative news website.
“Trolling is very important,” Yiannopoulos told "Nightline." “I like to think of myself as a virtuous troll, you know? I’m doing God’s work.”
Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET
When Jones detailed the abusive words and images she was receiving, Yiannopoulos accused her of playing the victim.
“This idea that celebrities are these fragile wallflowers. Give me a break,” he said. “That the stars of Hollywood blockbusters are sitting at home crying into their iPhones.”
The attacks against Leslie Jones, which featured Yiannopoulos so prominently, became so vicious that she took a break from Twitter, saying, “It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.”
Milo, as everyone calls him, makes a career sparking outrage, spraying his fire at all kinds of targets, such as the body positivity movement, which he called “revolting.”
“What's revolting is this idea now that you can tell women that they’ll be healthy at any size,” he said. “It tells women that you can be fat and you can be unattractive and you’ll be happy anyway. That’s a lie.”
And he has gone after feminism.
“I would rather a healthier, equitable arrangement that existed between the sexes rather than the sort of vindictive feminism that seems to exist now,” Yiannopoulos said. “And by the way, most people agree with me. Fewer than one in five women in America describe themselves as a feminist, because they see what I see.”
A dropout from Cambridge University, a somewhat poet, a tech journalist, Donald Trump supporter, gay Catholic and entrepreneur, Yiannopoulos is someone who will say just about anything about anyone to get attention, including “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer, who has a comedy series called, “Inside Amy Schumer.”
“It is insisted upon us that we all pay obeisance to the cult of Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer that they put them on the cover of the magazines," Yiannopoulos said.
Yiannopoulos said he is a provocateur, a prankster and that no one should be upset by his so-called antics.
Internet trolling has become more common, the tenor more hate-filled, and Yiannopoulos is just the tip of the iceberg of abuse on social media.
Normani Kordei, a member of the all-female group Fifth Harmony, became a victim of horrific trolling after she appeared to struggle to describe ones her bandmates in an interview.
Similar to Jones, racist trolls heaped scorn on Kordei, causing her to leave Twitter. "I've been racially cyberbullied with tweets and pictures so horrific and racially charged that I can't subject myself any longer to the hate," she said in a statement posted on Twitter on Aug. 6.
Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas faced brutal Twitter attacks after she didn’t put her hand over her heart at the medal ceremony when the U.S. team won gold in Rio. Douglas said the trolls were “really hurtful.”
Joel Stein, a writer with close to one million Twitter followers, has gotten his share of mean tweets. The trolling against Stein was relatively minor, but he became concerned when a user with the handle “Bornferal” -- whose real name was Megan Koester -- repeatedly threatened to “kick his ass.”
“It’s hard to know if you’re getting just made fun of or if you’re getting threatened,” Stein said. “think how Leslie Jones felt. Leslie Jones felt like someone could come in there. Leslie Jones felt like someone could attack her on the street based on what people were saying to her. I know she did, I talked to her.”
Stein eventually invited Koester to lunch and then wrote a cover story about it for Time magazine. He said the two of them are now friendly.
“After speaking with him, though, I could understand why my bullying may have given him pause, especially when I tweeted that I was going to beat him up while sitting in the same room as him,” Koester told “Nightline.” “While I may know I'm of sound mind and incapable of violence, he certainly didn't know that at the time.”
Harassment online is more often directed at women than men. A 2014 Pew Research study showed that more than one in four women online had experienced stalking on the internet.
Lindy West, a performer and author, has often been a target for trolls for her feminist perspective. In her recently published memoir, “Shrill,” she recounts her experience with harmful online harassment. In 2013, she participated in a debate on FX in which she spoke about the role of rape jokes in stand-up comedy, saying the jokes can have “repercussions” for victims.
But after the show was posted on YouTube, attacks against her reached fever pitch.
“This buzzing in my phone just grew and grew and grew, West said. “It was tweet after tweet after tweet. ‘Why does Lindy West think she knows anything about rape? No one would ever want to rape her. She’s too fat to rape,’ … It was difficult emotionally as a human being just because that level of violent rage all funneled at you at once is frightening.”
But West, who was a staff writer for Jezebel at the time, was able to turn those hateful tweets around. She printed out pages upon pages of the worst tweets and Facebook comments she had gotten, set up a camera in her living room and started reading them out loud. She published the video online, and this time, she received overwhelming support.
There was also a wave of support for Leslie Jones with #LoveforLeslie and she is now back on Twitter. Jones took action and reported Yiannopoulos to Twitter. In response, the company permanently suspended his account for violating their rules and conditions.
Twitter said in a statement, "no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online ... We will continue to take action against accounts that are reported to us and which clearly violate our rules.”
Yiannopoulos, however, said, “I would like my account back.”