The actress who plays AT&T's Lily speaks out against widespread sexual harassment on social media
The actress who plays AT&T’s Lily has detailed experiences of widespread sexual harassment on social media. Milana Vayntrub, who appeared on a series of popular commercials for the company between 2013 and 2016, returned to the role earlier this year. As a result of the campaign’s revived visibility, she’s encountered a flood of objectifying and concerning memes that violate her privacy.
In a recent Instagram live session, Vayntrub described the flood of sexual harassment in both her comments and the official AT&T accounts. Even as she candidly details the emotional damage on the stream, trolls still visibly flood the comments with the exact messages she’s decrying. Vayntrub claims that some social media accounts distorted old images in viral Twitter and Instagram memes, leading to a swell in abusive messages, and describes how impossible it is to regulate and report these on her own:
“Let me tell you, I am not consenting to any of this. I do not want any of this. The photos that have come out of me that are super-cleavage-y are from a pool party I went to in college over a decade ago...I mean, reporting them all — honestly, it’s like there are so many more of them than I have time to report.”
A recent article from Insider details the surge in abusive comments directed toward Vayntrub. After an objectifying post went viral on Twitter last week, users descended on the AT&T Instagram account, which had recently posted a Lily commercial. The spot accumulated over a million views, in addition to a flood of milk emojis and other predatory messages. (For comparison's sake, a Justice League commercial posted to the AT&T account on Wednesday currently has under 6,000 views.)
On the popular Instagram post, the company attempted to combat trolls through comments in savvy brand social media voice, but it was no match until they disabled comments altogether. AT&T gave the following statement to Insider, pledging to monitor and delete abusive comments toward Vayntrub on their social accounts:
“We will not tolerate the inappropriate comments and harassment of Milana Vayntrub, the talented actor that portrays Lily in our ads," AT&T said in a statement to Insider. "We have disabled or deleted these comments on our social content that includes Lily and we will continue to fight to support her and our values, which appreciate and respect all women."
It’s incredibly disheartening that Vayntrub is forced to vouch for herself in this way against an immovable army of trolls. No matter how much time social media platforms and companies have had to prepare against deeply entrenched misogyny and sustained abuse, they're no closer to protecting their users and employees from harm.