SAN FRANCISCO — As young women immersed in social media, Game of Thrones actresses Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner — who play, respectively, Arya and Sansa Stark — know there is a lot of very bad behavior online, much of it which has been aimed at women during the recent Gamergate saga.
The two, who play characters on Game of Thrones whose lives are constantly being threatened, have learned something about how to ward off bad online behavior too: Don’t feed the trolls.
Appearing at the red carpet premiere here of the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, both Williams, 17, and Turner, 19, acknowledged that although social media has been a huge factor in the show’s massive success, having a public life online can be scary. That’s particularly true in a world where, as Turner put it, people “can just troll” without any “real repercussions.”
Although neither Turner nor Williams have been the targets of any of the most egregious kind of trolling, like the death threats and other attacks aimed at video game developers Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, and games critic and blogger Anita Sarkeesian during Gamergate, Williams, asked about Gamergate, said that one important way of avoiding becoming a target is to ignore trolls who are desperate for attention. “If you don’t give people what they want,” Williams said, “and you don’t give them the reaction they want, then I feel like it turns into nothing.”
Quinn, Wu, and Sarkeesian may beg to differ, but Williams is probably right that many of the people online aiming vitriol at prominent women are looking to rile them up and get them to engage. By staying out of the fray, she seemed to suggest, the trolls will hopefully move on.
But as we’ve seen in recent months, this dynamic isn’t dying down. “There will always be people who sit behind computer screens and think they’re anonymous,” Turner said, “and [think] they can just troll people without people knowing their name, or where they’re from. And I think, in a way, that’s the downfall of social media, the fact that people can do this and there are no real repercussions for a lot of them.”
Added Turner, speaking about hackers who have gotten access to a great deal of some celebrities’ personal information and photographs by hacking into their phones: “It’s quite scary.”