Chatbot Provides AI-Powered Coaching for Online Attacks

50 different Twitter threats an hour. One woman journalist was overwhelmed at the threatening tweets coming at her from different users. Combatting the online activity quickly took over her work plan for the day. She turned to TrollBusters for help.

chatbot-e1524061535359.jpegTrollBusters new chatbot, linked on www.troll-busters.com’s Chat and on our Facebook page message button, helps direct journalists to immediate resources to combat online abuse. The bot responds to users answers about the type of abuse they are experiencing and provides technical, psychological and platform-specific strategies for counteracting attacks.

TARS-Chatbot_text-window
TrollBusters chatbot

Much of TrollBusters’ work has been about addressing just-in-time interventions to diminish the effects of online abuse. While women in general experience misogynistic attacks online, women journalists face a different dynamic because they are targeted as “public figures” and as women. Organized attacks, by anonymous smart mobs, or swarm activity by a frenzied, viral tweet, online abuse can quickly devolve with immediate, long-term impact on a journalist and her work.

“We’ve learned from our work with women journalists that this abuse can be fast and furious,” TrollBusters founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier said. “Our interventions are designed to quickly monitor and address troll activity so that we diminish the duration and frequency of attacks.”

TrollBusters worked with Lisa Williams to design the beta chatbot using the TARS platform. Williams describes the development process in a series of posts on GitHub. The bot is designed after TrollBusters’ popular infographic, “Online Abuse: What to Do? Where to Go?” that provides a threat analysis and resources to combat attacks.  The infographic is available in English, Spanish, Hindi, Russian, and Turkish. The TrollBusters chatbot is available in English.

TrollBusters-infographic

 

 

 

Gap Analysis Yields New Projects, New Partnerships

At the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia Spain, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Troll-Busters.com hosted a 2 ½ hour session to create strategies for supporting women journalists online.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier leads gap analysis.
Michelle Ferrier leads the workshop in crowdsourcing a gap analysis of organizations working in online abuse.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier, founder of TrollBusters and an associate professor in the E.W Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, led a design-thinking workshop of digital security advocates to identify needs and global activities. She used a matrix that examined impacts on journalists before, during and after an attack and the research, education, policy and technical work being done to support freedom of expression, digital security and other supports for journalists.

Attendees were invited to contribute organizations and projects working at the intersections of the matrix. Participants then suggested projects to serve gaps. Top projects were further developed in small groups, identifying concept, impact and next steps. If you would like your organization or project considered for this resource, please submit your recommendation to us using this form.

Gap Analysis: Online Threats and Journalists

 

  BEFORE ATTACK DURING ATTACK AFTER ATTACK OTHER
FRAMING Language/
Definitions
TrollBusters
Article 19Women’s Center for Global Leadership – Rutgers
Article 19

International Federation of Journalists

TrollBusters

Article 19

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

Committee to Protect Journalists

TrollBusters

Unions

 

RESEARCH TrollBusters

International Women’s Media Foundation

Google

U.S. Director of National Intelligence

International Federation of Journalists

Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan

 

Article 19

FLIP

International Women’s Media Foundation

FFR

TrollBusters

Article 19

International Women’s Media Foundation

Committee to Protect Journalists

TrollBusters

Fundacion Karisma

International Media Support

Reuters

Initiative for Freedom of Expression

TrollBusters

POLICY SEAJU Network of SE Asia

APC

Article 19

SCM

IFEX

TrollBusters

SAMSN Network of South Asia

Fundacion Karisma

Center for Independent Journalism-Hungary

Article 19

Women in Media Australia

TrollBusters

Article 19

Women’s Media Center

Reporters Sans Frontieres

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

TrollBusters

EDUCATION SecDev

MLDI

TrollBusters

International Association of Women in Radio and Television

 

Reporters Sans Frontieres

SecDev

Article 19

Women’s Media Center

TrollBusters

Dutch MFA

Sida: Swedish MFA SIF event

TECHNICAL Women’s Media Center

IREX Safe Project

Guardian Project

Ciber Seguras – Mexico

TrollBusters

Citizen Lab

TrollBusters

24/7

Committee to Protect Journalists

CitizenLab

Guardian Project

TACTICAL RESPONSE TrollBusters

 

 

TrollBusters

Guardian Project

Rory Peck Trust

Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma

HeartMob

Digital Defenders Program

Syria Response Group

Access Now

Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan

Lifeline-Civil Society Response for India

 

Access Now

Article 19

Fundacion Karisma

TrollBusters

Syria Response Group

Digital Defenders Program

Dart Center

Initiative for Freedom of Expression

Rory Peck Trust

OTHER IREX Safe

Fundacion
Karisma

 

 

 

#MeTooOnline & Women Journalists Center Stage at United Nations #CSW62

With a focus on the #metoo movement and its manifestations online and off, the 62nd annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women sought collaborations and action toward protecting women journalists around the globe. Dr. Michelle Ferrier, founder of Troll-Busters, was an invited panelist on two events hosted by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, “Beyond a Pretty Face: Tackling Gender Bias in Media Industries,” and “MeTooOnline: Workshopping Solutions to Counter Cyber Violence Against Women.”

Online abuse is on the rise, Ferrier said, and journalists globally are under attack. Ferrier said that online harassment has a chilling effect on the journalists who are targets of this activity. Ferrier spoke about creating TrollBusters, a service for “online pest control” that she developed after being targeted as a journalist both online and off. She shared new research from interviews with women journalists and journalists of color published in “TrollBusters: Fighting Online Harassment of Women Journalists,” in Mediating Misogyny released by Palgrave this March.

For women journalists, misogyny is a daily experience, with tweets and comments that erode their reputation and credibility as professionals. For women journalists and journalists of color, their gender and ethnicity impact their ability to effectively do their jobs.

“There is a daily onslaught of misogyny and abuse that women journalists face doing their work,” Ferrier said. “This type of ongoing activity has an emotional impact on journalists. Many think about leaving the profession.”

In “#MeTooOnline,” Ferrier described how online attacks can have offline consequences. She shared the story of a Florida journalists who tried to discredit an imposter tweet attributed to her that went viral after the #Parkland high school shooting.

In “Beyond a Pretty Face,” Ferrier discussed ownership and distribution control as strategies to address gender bias in the media. Ferrier teaches media entrepreneurship and digital innovation as an associate professor at Ohio University.

The 62nd Commission on the Status of Women focused on participation in and access of women to the media. Spanning March 12-23 at the United Nations Plaza in Manhattan, organizations including Article 19, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Reporters Sans Frontieres, UNESCO, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television and TrollBusters, urged coordinated activities to address online abuse and targeted harassment.

#csw2018 #csw62 #onlineabuse #onlineharassment #metooonline #iawrt

#HackingHate with Counternarratives

IMG_6047
La Nena is a popular female graffiti artist in Valencia, Spain. This mural graces a wall near the marina.

Valencia, Spain proved to be the perfect setting to design art, memes and other visuals to counter online hate.

The mural, designed at the Juan Carlos 1 Marina by the artist La Nena, became the basis for this Latina-based meme, created by TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier. TrollBusters has used counternarratives since its start in 2015 as a tactic to educate and provoke support for women journalists under online attacks.

IMG_6122
The meme created by Michelle Ferrier from art by La Nena.

On Friday, March 9, Coding Rights hosted the workshop “Hacking Hate: Creative Tactics to Counterattack Online Gender Violence” at the Internet Freedom Festival to design counternarratives designed to question and challenge misogyny and hate online. Facilitators Lucia Egana, Joana Varon and Paz Pena used the workshop to facilitate a fast production of creative artifacts, using irony and laughter as strategy to both confront sexism and create new references to amplify feminist popular culture. Participants used Giphy and other design tools to use humor and other rhetorical tools to spread using social media using the hashtag #hackinghate. The digital pieces will also be hosted in a virtual museum of women’s voices being created by Coding Rights.

Search #HackingHate for more memes and gifs.

 

 

Help Us Build A Global Resource Hub

 

Global-Resource_Guide_Map

TrollBusters is working in conjunction with the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe to compile a global resource guide of organizations that are assisting journalists to combat online harassment and protect journalists’ voices and freedom of expression.

Our goal is to create location-specific guidelines on support for journalists experiencing online abuse. We will be including resources from more than 57 countries around the globe including the U.S., the European Union, the U.S.S.R. and other geographies.

If you would like your organization or project considered for this resource, please submit your recommendation to us using this form.

Thank you.

Designing a Better Global Response System for Online Abuse

The collective minds of advocates and activists from organizations fighting online abuse against journalists came together March 8 at the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, Spain. The group designed five new projects to support journalists under attack.

ferrier-presents-IFF-sm
Michelle Ferrier leads the workshop in crowdsourcing a gap analysis of organizations working in online abuse.

TrollBusters Founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier, along with Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation and Kerry Patterson of the Committee to Protect Journalists hosted a design thinking workshop on International Women’s Day with more than 20 participants of nongovernmental organizations and others promoting freedom of expression.

Facilitated by Ferrier, the group worked together for 2 ½ hours to create a gap analysis of the organizations and projects already serving journalists before, during and after an online attack. Then the participants defined priorities exposed by the gap analysis and designed five projects to better serve the global threat. Using concept posters, teams designed the target audience, effects, strategic partners and next steps in building out the projects.

IMG_5987 2
Participants identified psychological support as one of the most pressing needs for journalists under attack.

The top five projects included:

  1. Analytic Research Support: Connect women journalists to analytic research organizations to understand the nature of online attacks.
  2. Third-Party Online Threat Assessment: Media organizations hire a 3rd party to assess and document online abuse and provide threat assessment.
  3. Providing Psychological Support: Providing psychological support before, during and after an attack. Support should focus on proactive strategies.
  4. Mapping Online Harassment Hotspots: Creating a visualization of where online activity is concentrated.
  5. Troll/Harasser Buster: Name and shame to force accountability, correct the record and provide documentation to help change policies.
img_5983-e1521021890123.jpg
Teams worked on concept posters to design new projects to serve journalists.

The project teams will continue after the festival to flesh out their projects and find strategic partners to implement the ideas. If you are interested in participating in the working groups, please contact Michelle Ferrier at report@troll-busters.com.

What We Can Learn From #Parkland

Alex Harris, a journalist with the Miami-Herald, reached out using social media in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attack on February 14. She sent out a query on Twitter, seeking anyone to talk. Like many journalists, social sourcing is critical to her work, especially in breaking news scenarios, Harris said in an interview with NPR. “Twitter is where you reach out to people who are self-selected saying, I’m in this situation, I am in a place where I can say something on social media.”

IMG_5445She sent the tweet. And the dark web sent back an altered, Photoshopped version, suggesting that Harris was inappropriately soliciting stories from witnesses.

And then the doctored tweets went viral, fueled by a deep distrust of the media. The doctored tweet provided confirmation bias to a Twitter audience that hollers #fakemedia.

But this WAS #fakemedia. And the detail of the Photoshopped tweet, complete with a time-stamp and a check indicating a Twitter verified account, did fool many, including other journalists who retweeted the fakes.

What Harris Did Right

Harris quickly tweeted about the false tweets, getting in front of the swarm. She specified how the language of the tweet had been altered, without retweeting the original. Harris did not go after each of the trolls; she stated the facts of what was happening online.

IMG_5480

Harris reported the activity right away to Twitter. Even though it was futile, Harris forced @Twitter to respond on the platform. The public engagement with @TwitterSupport was visible in her social stream, verifying that she was actively engaged around the issue with Twitter.

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Harris forced @Twitter to clarify its policies. Imposter accounts are against the rules. Imposter tweets are not, said @TwitterSupport And she got Jack Dorsey to admit he has no scalable solution. Twitter executives will take to Capitol Hill on Monday, March 5 to explain to lawmakers why the platform is challenged when fighting #fakenews and disinformation.

Alex-Harris_Dorsey_twitter-response

Harris quickly garnered online support. Fellow journalists, including Wes Lowery of the Washington Post jumped in and amplified Harris’ call that she was being impersonated through the doctored tweets. Others offered emotional support against the barrage of outrage coming at Harris. Some even helped to explain how journalists work, justifying Harris’ actions and bolstering her professionally online.

IMG_5457IMG_5479

Mixed in with the Twitter swarm were critiques of Harris’ professional work and how she had conducted herself online. But as Harris pointed out to NPR’s Ari Shapiro, “Twitter is everything in these breaking news scenarios because media these days relies even more and more on first-person accounts. And you don’t always trust law enforcement to give you the perfectly correct information the first time around or as quickly as people want it and as quickly as people need it.”

But the same speed advantage that Twitter provides to journalists to get those first-person reports also accelerates the swarm effect. Harris feels that the Twitter storm made it difficult for her to do her job.

Alex-Harris_1

The imposter tweets had achieved their objective – to cast doubt on the credibility of a journalist. And according to Harris, the tweets diminished the overall reporting efforts of her team, impeding their ability to tell the story.

What TrollBusters Did

Team TrollBusters was monitoring online when the attack against Harris was happening. We went into action:

  1. We put a warning tweet into Harris’ Twitter feed. We let the trolls know that we were monitoring activity on her feed. And we let Harris know that she could report to TrollBusters and we would continue to actively monitor her account. IMG_5466
  2. TrollBusters began to monitor Harris’ feed, capturing activity for future evidence.
  3. We amplified her message that she was under attack to our followers.
  4. We began digital forensics work to determine who was the source of the attack.
  5. We actively reported suspicious tweets to Twitter.
  6. We discovered bot accounts behind much of the retweet activity. We reported bot activity to Twitter.

Beyond our introduction tweet, we don’t operate in someone’s feed without their permission. Had Harris reached out and reported her online abuse at http://www.troll-busters.com, we would have been able to reach out with additional resources to protect her and her online reputation.

If you’re experiencing harassment online, or know of someone who is, you can report an incident to TrollBusters at http://troll-busters.com/form-report-an-incident.html