NETIZENS delves into the lives of three women who have been transformed by online harassment. Carrie Goldberg is an attorney in New York City, who launches an internet privacy and sexual assault law firm in the wake of her own cyber harassment. Tina, in West Palm Beach, is a successful businesswoman whose career is derailed after an ex-boyfriend creates numerous reputation-harming websites. San Francisco-based Anita Sarkeesian is the creator of a popular web-series, “Feminist Frequency,” critiquing representations of women in video games, who is the target of a cyber-mob’s ongoing campaign of rape and death threats.
Through an intimate, vérité approach, NETIZENS depicts the many forms digital abuse can take: non-consensual pornography, cyber-stalking, threats of violence, privacy invasions, impersonation, character attacks. The film challenges the notion cyber harassment is “only” online, showing the repercussions on targets’ lives: lost jobs, thwarted educations, damaged reputations, offline harassment and stalking, and countless hours devoted to containing attacks against a backdrop of mounting legal fees and psychological distress.
While law enforcement lags far behind the crimes, the film’s subjects seek justice on their own terms. Carrie’s law firm takes off in the midst of the #MeToo movement; Tina speaks out about her experiences and breaks back into the finance industry; and Anita creates a new series about race, gender and inequality in America. NETIZENS bears witness as a courageous wave of individuals transform the web as we know it.