Women Journalists Suffer Online Abuse in Silence for Fear of Retribution

70percent_attacks2-01-width800height800A new research report, written by TrollBusters founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier, shows significant short- and long-term effects for women journalists facing online abuse, including changes to their reporting routines and censoring of topics covered. In most cases, this abuse goes unreported to management, as women journalists fear retribution, including removal from assignments and their jobs.

Cover of October 2018 report, Attacks and Harassment: The Impact on Female Journalists and Their Reporting
Attacks and Harassment: The Impact on Female Journalists and Their Reporting, Fall 2018.

The Fall 2018 report, Attacks and Harassment: The Impact on Female Journalists and their Reporting, released in conjunction with the International Women’s Media Foundation and with funding from the Craig Newmark Philanthropies, provides a sobering view of female journalists and the digital culture in which they do their work. These new findings, which detail the short- and long-term impact of online harassment on more than 600 individual journalists, freelancers, media workers and others, also illuminates the changing nature of the attacks. The survey was distributed to women journalists around the globe during January 2018- March 2018.

The survey examines both online and physical threats against journalists and was distributed in a year when journalists around the globe, and especially in the United States, saw the violence against journalists come to public attention and outcry. President Donald Trump of the United States has called the press “the enemy of the state,” creating a hostile work environment for journalists the world over. Recent attacks on the press in the United States, resulted in the June 28 killings of journalists at the Capital Gazette newspaper and the vicious murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. A December 2, 2018 CNN news report points to intercepted WhatsApp messages that doomed Khashoggi as the Saudi government cracked down on dissenters:

Khashoggi_text-capture_god help us.

It is against this global backdrop that these 600 women journalists shared the myriad ways they are threatened and attacked online and off and the impact on their work. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in the United States, female journalists the world over feel the constant pain of a hostile work environment. Women journalists receive daily threats via social media, email, and other digital forms. However, female journalists also fear surveillance of their online activities, with 37 percent citing surveillance as a concern. Another 26 percent have received unsolicited invitations of a sexual nature. Nearly a quarter of the respondents (21%) indicated that their family and friends had been threatened too. Nearly a quarter (24 percent), indicated that the online threats and harassment had interfered with or negatively impacted their career development.

52 percent_newstat1-01-width800height800

Key findings from the report:

  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) say that in the last five years, online threats or harassment are occurring much more often. The same number also say that physical attacks are on the rise as well, with attacks occurring more often in the past five years.
  • Women journalists report a variety of ways in which they are attacked and stalked online, in gendered, sexist ways. Sixty-five percent (65%)  indicate they have experienced sexist comments within the past year; 29 percent say they’ve received racist comments; 28 percent say someone has verbally attacked them to their face. Eighteen percent (18%) say they have been stalked in the past year.
  • Thirty-six percent (36%) cite concerns of psychological stress, while nearly half (48 percent) fear a loss of job or income.
  • More than 50 percent (52%) fear the loss of future employment opportunities.
  • More than a third (37%) say they avoided certain stories after online attacks.
  • Nearly a third (29%)  indicated they they thought about getting out of the field/profession.

For the full report, Attacks and Harassment: The Impact on Female Journalists and their Reporting, download our PDF file: Attacks-and-Harassment_Fall-2018

Published by michelleferrier

Executive Director, Media Innovation Collaboratory; Founder, Troll-Busters.com | Online Pest Control for Writers and Journalists;

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