Cybersmile Foundation ‘Witch Trials’ fights online abuse

The_Cybersmile_FoundationThe Cybersmile Foundation is aiming to combat the growing threat of cyberbullying and online abuse with a new ad campaign to raise awareness of the issue and spark a conversation about finding kinder ways to address problematic behaviour online.

Devised by Joan London, the “Modern Witch Trials” campaign includes a short film directed by Chromista’s Eliza McNitt that draws parallels with the Salem Witch Trials, which began 332 years ago this month.

The film concludes with the central message that “Mob Justice Isn’t New. It Just Got a Tech Upgrade”, directing people to The Cybersmile Foundation website for information on how to engage more productively online.

The campaign, which is born out of the rise of cancel culture, builds on the idea that cyberbullying and social media retribution are becoming more widespread, both for celebrities and those who are not in the public eye.

It stresses how online harassment can affect anyone with a social media presence and that it is critical to not only highlight this increasingly prevalent issue but also start the dialogue about how we can build a more compassionate digital community.

The film will be released, in partnership with Pearl & Dean, across all of their UK cinemas in the run-up to Safer Internet Day (February 6), as well as on social media.

It was produced by Chromista, the production company of Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan and The Whale), Ted Robbins, Adina Birnbaum, and Scott Franklin. It was directed by Emmy Award nominee and Venice Film Festival winner Eliza McNitt – all big supporters of The Cybersmile Foundation’s mission and work.

Cybersmile Foundation founder Scott Freeman said: “This campaign reflects Cybersmile’s founding principles and mission: that everyone should have an equal right to access and enjoy our connected world. We hope that this inspires viewers to think about their online behaviour and consider whether their posts and responses contribute to a safer and more positive internet experience.”

Joan London managing director Tom Ghiden added: “The anonymity of our online lives and ease of response, combined with the desire to be seen as empathetic and socially conscious, has resulted in increasing mob behaviour online. People being targeted may have made poor decisions, or behaved problematically, but this creative is designed to make people question whether vicious retribution is warranted, or if there are more productive ways to drive evolution.

“At Joan London, we want to be a part of the solution. We love the work Cybersmile has done, and we are extremely proud to have worked with such a brilliant extended team to tackle this very complex and polarising issue, and bring this campaign to life.”

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