Online abuse targets female security expert with ‘wrong look’

17 Aug 2016

Online abuse brought a troubling end to a Foursys promotional campaign on LinkedIn in recent days, though Jayde Phoenix’s response has won the day.

Foursys, and its account manager Jayde Phoenix, have become the unwitting centre of a bizarre and pretty grim LinkedIn exchange, with online abuse ruining a competition set up to give away a bottle of champagne.

As a way of promoting the UK-based IT security company, Phoenix had an idea last week to give away a bottle of bubbly to whatever company could guess how many USB flash drives were in a jar. So far, so simple. However, when the photo of Phoenix holding the jar and Champagne was posted, things turned nasty.

Abuse started quickly

“Right from the start, comments were coming in thick and fast,” said Andy Wool, marketing manager at the company, who detailed the exchanges, as well as an engagement with LinkedIn, in a company post.

“Most of them were supportive and in the spirit that was intended. The more nasty comments started after about two hours and probably accounted for an estimated 5 to 10pc of all the comments,” Wool told

It appears Phoenix’s career in cybersecurity was not enough to convince some people that she was an expert in her field.

Wool, Phoenix and their colleagues took screengrabs of the abusive comments. However, the campaign has since been removed by LinkedIn (the reason given below), so verifying these comments is not possible.

“LinkedIn permanently obliterated the post and all the comments, so we cannot perform any analytics,” said Wool. “It would be really, really helpful if LinkedIn reinstated the original post.”

The entire exchange is absolutely bizarre as, unlike most forms of social media, LinkedIn is almost always tied in with users’ employers, so to post inflammatory comments – abusive or otherwise – seems immensely risky.

‘Shame on you’

Phoenix’s video – which you can view by clicking on the below image – explains the situation from her point of view, featuring some screengrabs that Foursys alleges came from the campaign. (Warning: some of the comments are quite graphic.)

Jayde Phoenix LinkedIn Foursys

Jayde Phoenix’s response to the original Foursys campaign on LinkedIn, via YouTube

“We all sit around and say we want more women in the IT industry, but are we saying we only want them if they fit into a stereotype?” said Phoenix in the video.

“For the record: I am good at my job. I am not dumb. And I am not going to sit here and allow anyone to cyberbully me. For those who say I know nothing about IT security, shame on you. I know more than 99pc of people you would meet on the street.”

LinkedIn has since spoken of the decision to remove the Foursys campaign, which it says broke its user agreement rules.

“We investigate suspected violations to our user agreement,” said a LinkedIn spokesperson, “including sweepstakes promoted through sponsored ads, and take action when violations are uncovered.”

“We have systems in place to help prevent this type of content from being posted on LinkedIn and also give our members the ability to report inappropriate content, messages, or safety concerns.

“It is easy to report inappropriate posts or comments. For example, if a member feels that a post or comment in their newsfeed includes offensive content they can click the top right corner of the update and select ‘report this update’ or ‘report this comment’, following the prompts to categorise why they found it offensive to enable our team to deal with it promptly.

“We are grateful to all our members who help us maintain high standards by flagging content that is of concern.”

We’ve been here before

This isn’t an isolated incident on social media, with threatening comments recently forcing the author Jessica Valenti to reconsider her presence online.

Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was subjected to online abuse in June, with Brietbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned from Twitter for his role in the debacle.

Every cloud…

However, in the Foursys incident, the response from the company has been emphatic, with Phoenix’s video post complemented by a three-point pledge from the company.

Now, Foursys will:

  • Create training courses that focus on avoiding and dealing with online abuse and cyberbullying by the end of October 2016
  • Create a local meet-up group to share experiences and provide guidance to victims. The hope would be that this meet-up concept would spread to other locations all around the country by the end of August 2016
  • Work more closely with schools to make young people more aware of online dangers and teach them online etiquette, starting in September 2016

“Of course, this entire LinkedIn fiasco was upsetting,” Phoenix told us. “But if something good can come of it, then great.

“I am so lucky that Foursys, my friends and my family are totally behind me,” she said. “And I really wanted to stand up to those people who tried to bully me and say ‘No! Shame on you!’. It feels great to have done that.”

Main no girls allowed image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt
By Gordon Hunt

Gordon Hunt joined Silicon Republic in October 2014 as a journalist. He spends most of his time avoiding conversations about music, appreciating even the least creative pun and rueing the day he panicked when meeting Paul McGrath. His favourite thing on the internet is the ‘Random Article’ link on Wikipedia.

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