In late August 2020, the AT&T official Instagram account was attacked. The company was forced to disable comment sections on several posts, delete thousands of comments, and potentially block hundreds of users. All of this and much more because of a meme surrounding the target of this online raid, Milana Vayntrub.
Milana is better known by Lily Adams, her character. She’s played a friendly AT&T employee in their commercials and advertisements for almost a decade. She’s appeared in anything from short skits to still images as far back as 2013 and remains the most prevalent and recognizable face of AT&T’s advertising to this day. It’s no stretch to say that Lily Adams is the face of AT&T and probably one of the most famous commercial spokeswoman on TV and social media.
Part of her fame and notoriety has come through her gaining a reputation of being one of the sexiest women in cell service commercials, and it’s been a sort of joke for as long as she’s been acting on AT&T commercials to point this out. Over the years, many have found humor in merely bringing attention to the fact that this woman in the commercials we watch is surprisingly good looking. In 2014 Conan O’Brien made a tweet joking about Lily that got a few thousand likes and retweets. She’s even mentioned in an episode of Family Guy, aired in 2017, in which she’s referred to as “the AT&T chick” and a “hot commercial girl.”
There have been quite a few times when a joke would be made about Milana, but they’ve mostly been isolated incidents that appear to have had no lasting impressions on her personal life. She even posted the Family Guy clip to her personal Instagram in early August, seeming to think it was funny. But the internet and social media have changed over the years, and jokes online don’t work the way they once did.
Once a joke or meme is created online, it goes out to millions of people who continue to share, repost, and potentially get themselves involved to try and escalate the situation for more laughs. This is exactly what happened to the AT&T Instagram and Milana.
On August 17th, the AT&T Instagram account rolled out a new ad starring Milana. That video was advertised and shared so much that it had over a million views and almost 100,000 likes after only one week. A few days after it first aired, people got to talking. August 22nd, a tweet is posted calling Lily “so fine” gets around 25,000 retweets and over 200,000 likes.
At this point, the AT&T Instagram starts to get sexually explicit comments about Lily. At first, just a few, but after it was found out that AT&T themselves would reply to any inappropriate comments posted on their photos and ads, the floodgates were opened. Users found it hilarious that the cell service company would attempt to dispel the harassment by asking commenters to please leave, so thousands upon thousands of users started rushing to the account to leave a comment about Lily.
It got much worse. Soon enough harassers started to locate and share Milana’s personal Instagram account and proceed to do the exact same thing they did on the AT&T account. Thousands of more sexual comments were posted on Milana’s photos, and she was quickly overwhelmed. About a day after this began, she streamed an emotional Instagram Live pleading for the sexual comments to stop. This must’ve not resonated with the commenters very well because they continued to write these messages even on the same Instagram Live, where she was asking them to stop.
The incident seems to have understandably upset Milana as she didn’t deserve any of what happened to her and it would be distressing for anyone to go through something like that. Fortunately, these types of jokes seem to burn out quickly and after two weeks the inappropriate comments have all but disappeared, replaced mostly by reassuring ones supporting Milana and apologizing for what she’s gone through.