Student journalists not immune from online trolls


  • What We’re Watching: Indian journalist Rana Ayyub has received death threats, gang rape threats and worse for her critical exposes of the government. She recently appeared on BBC to name her attackers and how violent threats have become a Twitter storm.
  • Zambian media workers are pushing back against the Zambian government for fast tracking several cybersecurity bills without proper vetting with civil society.
  • At the G7 summit in Canada, British Prime Minister Theresa May urged internet firms to do more to prevent online abuse and harassment of women, Reuters reports.
  • U.S. constitutional lawyer Noah Feldman explains the tenuous balance when we start to regulate how platforms limit free speech, even to prevent abuse or protect the right to follow the U.S. president’s Twitter account.
  • And a member of the U.K. parliament advocates digital IDs and ending online anonymity as a way to curb trolling and “mob rule.”
  • A new book, “Uncovering Online Commenting Culture: Trolls, Fanboys and Lurkers,” from Renee Barnes looks at why people behave the way they do online.
  • The Tweet Police? This language-policing AI is unlikely to make you more civil on the Internet, but it’s determined to try.
  • Does the Sarahah app, popular among teenage girls in Australia, facilitate cyberbullying? A spike in online harassment and bullying may lead to suicides, warn experts.


Student journalists are not immune from idiots on the web. This Kent Stater columnist experienced threats that caused her to go to authorities. How should student media workers defend themselves? Gershon Harrell talks to TrollBusters founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier for tips on best practices. Photo courtesy of Madison Newingham.TrollBusters Infographic HindiOur practical “What to Do?” infographic leads journalists through response to different types of threats…now in Russian, Spanish, Hindi and English.

Highlight of the Week

The Best Antidote is a Good Laugh…and a Great Clapback

You know…like Stephen Colbert, we just don’t appreciate all the #onlinehate toward our leading womxn of color, especially the recent trashing on Kelly Marie Tran on Instagram. So this new Star Wars trailer highlights all the sheroes in one mega femflick just to piss off the Fanboys. WATCH HERE.


Claim Your Seat: Digital Self-Defense Class

Register now for Orientation: Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts, a 1-1/2 hour guided tour through the dark web and digital security for journalists:

This 1 1/2-hour webinar, taught by Michelle Ferrier, provides an orientation to online abuse and digital security, the legal boundaries of online speech and ways in which journalists are exposed to online harassment. Participants will also generate their personal threat model and explore tools for protecting their digital reputation online and off. Learn more about our course offerings. Register now.

In the meantime, browse our Digital Hygiene Course, 10-minute mini lessons on digital practices to keep online pests away.

Check out these and other lessons at

Stop the silence…Sharing your #onlineabuse is self-care


  • Independent music journalist Zachary Stoner and self-described “Hood CNN” was killed in Chicago. The Committee to Protect Journalists asks for a thorough investigation into whether Stoner’s community stories of Black men and Chicago gangs played a role.
  • Journalists wrote an open letter to messaging apps asking the platforms to make changes that could curb online abuse, IFEX reports.
  • In exposing hate-monger @AmyMek, a HuffPost reporter was doxed and Twitter suspended HIM. Find out how the dark web has weaponized the same technologies designed to protect users from threats.
  • Parkland survivor David Hogg‘s home was swatted this week, where law enforcement is called to your home under false pretenses. Authorities are investigating.
  • What was she thinking? Roseanne trolls Valerie Jarrett, and we learn that trolls don’t always win.
  • Inside Higher Ed reports on the many ways social media is used to harass women academics. One of the article’s conclusions? “Women in particular are harassed partly because they happen to be women who dare to be public online.”
  • Annemunition, a female gamer on Twitch, shows just how sexist other gamers can be.
  • Rwanda gets this right? Maybe? A new law there will criminalize cyberstalking.
  • And Gender Equity Victoria tries to equip bystanders to intervene in online abuse, The Guardian reports.

Highlight of the Week

Breaking the Professional Silence Around Online Abuse

Dr. Elana Newman, director of the Dart Center for Trauma and Journalists, discusses the emotional and psychological impact of online abuse on journalists. “Journalists aren’t used to being the story,” Newman says, “but they need to talk about it.” TrollBusters has worked with Dr. Newman and the #SOFJO campaign to raise awareness of the trauma of online attacks. LISTEN.


Register Now to Learn Digital Self-Defense

At TrollBusters, we’re hard at work developing a series of webinars to help you protect yourself from the dark forces that lurk online. The first of these is now available, with more in the works.

Registration is now open for Orientation: Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts, a 1-1/2 hour guided tour through the dark web and digital security for journalists:

This 1 1/2-hour webinar, taught by Michelle Ferrier, provides an orientation to online abuse and digital security, the legal boundaries of online speech and ways in which journalists are exposed to online harassment. Participants will also generate their personal threat model and explore tools for protecting their digital reputation online and off. Learn more about our course offerings.  Register now.

In the meantime, browse our Digital Hygiene Course, 10-minute mini lessons on digital practices to keep online pests away.

Check out these and other lessons at

Extreme trolling leads journalist to fake death


The Oxygen of Amplification report cover

Last week, Data & Society released a new report by Whitney Phillips, The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists, and Manipulators Online. The three-part guide looks at how the far-right leveraged trolling to disrupt the 2016 presidential election; the consequences of reporting on damaging information within the inherent limits of journalism; and best practices for newsrooms, when covering false information as well as online harassment and abusers. Read the report.


A Real-Life Horror Story of How a Toxic Girlfriend and Destroyed This Photographer’s Life

Our own Barton Christner is no stranger to the offline consequences of being stalked and trolled in the digital space. In this blog post, he tells the story of his digital nightmare he experienced for years in the clutches of the internet injustice system of and an internet vixen we call Darth Becky. Owners Arrested, Charged owners Sahar Sarid, Kishore Vidya Bhavnanie, Thomas Keesee, and David Usdan were arrested last week on charges of extortion, money laundering and identity theft. And we couldn’t be happier. Here’s why.


Learn Digital Self-Defense

Registration is now open for the first module in our upcoming series of webinars to help you defend and protect yourself online.

Orientation: Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts is a 1-1/2 hour guided tour through the dark web and digital security for journalists:

This 1 1/2-hour webinar, taught by Michelle Ferrier, provides an orientation to online abuse and digital security, the legal boundaries of online speech and ways in which journalists are exposed to online harassment. Participants will also generate their personal threat model and explore tools for protecting their digital reputation online and off. Register now.

Can’t wait to get started? Browse through our Digital Hygiene Course, 10-minute mini lessons on digital practices to keep online pests away.

Check out these and other lessons at

Twitter’s focusing on behavioral cues to tackle online abuse


  • Twitter is tweaking its algorithms to weed out more online abuse. Chief exec Jack Dorsey explains to The Guardian that “The spirit of the thing is that we want to take the burden off the person receiving abuse or mob-like behavior.
  • You can’t just ignore (all) the trolls, says this writer, who talks about women in sports and online harassment.
  • A new report suggests more governments are using trolls, bots and others to distribute propaganda, alter public opinion, distort the facts and crack down on opposition.
  • Is a university responsible for protecting its students from online harassment through a third-party app? A court weighs the issue.
  • Psychology Today looks at the psychological toll of cyberstalking.
  • The International Association of Women in Radio and Television summarizes two weeks of panels and workshops on #onlineharassment at the #CSW62 in New York this March.
  • BBC Woman’s Hour has started a series, Takeback ConTroll, covering stories of women who have experienced online abuse.

#RightsCon in Toronto

RightsCon is happening now in Toronto, a conference about human rights in a digital age. Follow the hashtag #RightsCon to see discussion about algorithms, bots, identity and human rights. On Thursday, May 17, Dr. Michelle Ferrier, founder of, will be speaking at “Take Back the Net: Innovations in Tackling Online Hate and Harassment.”
The conversation will focus on the global aspects of online harassment, particularly for journalists and other thought leaders. As the internet and social media become increasingly essential to our lives and careers, online hate speech and harassment remain rampant, with evidence that they’re having a chilling effect in our online communities. With tech companies unable to effectively meet the needs of each individual targeted by hate on the internet, innovative intermediary groups have risen up, employing a diverse array of effective tactics to combat hate, silence harassers, and give power back to internet users themselves. This panel discussion will feature the ingenious innovators who have stepped in to offer solutions to an endemic problem that tech companies are still struggling to solve, offering a ray of hope that our online communities might one day become safer and more inclusive for all.


Should Students Consider Pseudonyms?
Student journalists are under attack by trolls seeking to derail them from their journalism careers. Gershon Harrell of Kent State University, looks at the issue and talks with Dr. Michelle Ferrier about why she advocates pseudonyms for women journalists in the face of online hate.


LISTEN as WVXU’s Mark Heyne talks with TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier about her work in fighting online harassment. [May 2016]


Secure Your Digital Property

Our 16-lesson Digital Hygiene Course offers quick tips to help you protect your digital presence. This week, take these steps:

Check out these and other lessons at

If You Can’t #BeBest, #BeOriginal…Are We #Winning?


  • Freelancers need protection too, writes Elisabet Cantenys in Open Society Foundations. Freelancers are especially vulnerable as their next job depends on their reputation…EVERY…SINGLE…TIME.
  • Justin Trudeau and a host of Canadian leaders call out social media platforms to discuss the online harassment experiences of women leaders, particularly’s Alberta Premier @RachelNotley who has received death threats via social media.

  • U.S. First Lady Melania Trump officially launched her Be Best cyberbullying campaign on Monday, saying “Together, I believe we should strive to provide kids with the tools they need to cultivate their social and emotional health.” She quickly got dragged on Twitter for plagiarism for having cannibalized an Obama-era online safety campaign booklet as the New York Times reports. #Sad.
  • Groundviews is running a long-form series on online harassment and its chilling effect on women in politics.
  • The student government president at American University is suing Andrew Anglin of neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer for coordinating a troll storm against her on social media, The Washington Post reports.

  • Instagram has added a filter it says will help combat harassment on its platform.
  • Wired writes about the complexity and promise of detecting online hate speech with artificial intelligence.

Tackling Online Hate and Harassment at RightsCon

Next week, founder of TrollBusters Michelle Ferrier will speak on a panel at RightsCon Toronto. The “Take Back the Net: Innovations in Tackling Online Hate and Harassment” session will highlight organizations battling the chilling effect online harassment has on journalists, women, people of color and others. The panelists will discuss efforts to solve online abuse, even as tech companies struggle to find solutions. Check out all the themes of RightsCon Toronto from May 16-18.

Ferrier will be sharing work that is building on the gap analysis developed at the Internet Freedom Festival in March 2018.

WATCH as founder of TrollBusters Michelle Ferrier speaks on a panel at CUNY J-School’s Social Media Weekend about supporting journalists in the face of online harassment. [June, 2016]

World Press Freedom Day | May 3, 2018

WPFD This is Africa post
According to the United Nations, World Press Freedom Day is a day to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, assess the state of press freedom throughout the world, defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in their line of duty#WPFD,  on May 3, 2018 inspired and informed us. Here are our top ten tweets from this year’s campaigns for safety and freedom of expression.

Above: @ThisIsAfricaTIA tweeted 10 things to know about World Press Freedom Day. Number 3 on their list: Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that everyone “has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to see, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

And below, our nine favorite tweets of #WPFD that help describe the deadly issues of press freedoms and the new states of media oppression growing in the United States and around the globe. We especially call out the work of Nighat Dad and Digital Rights Pakistan in providing safety for women journalists.

World Press Freedom Day tweet from Article 19
World Press Freedom Day tweet from IFEX
World Press Freedom Day tweet from Antonio Rodriguez
World Press Freedom Day tweet from Mokumnews
World Press Freedom Day tweet from Johanna Carrillo
World Press Freedom Day tweet from CPJ
World Press Freedom Day tweet from Soonfeed Europe


Here’s What You Can Do

What can you do today to make yourself safer online and off? Clean up your digital footprint with our 16-lesson Digital Hygiene Course.

  • Lesson 3: HTTPS everywhere
  • Lesson 4: Anonymous “Tor” cloaks and VPNs

Check out these and other lessons at

Oh, the lengths to which we have to go…#ShePersisted


  • She had to copyright her breasts to fight revenge porn, but #shepersisted. This month, represented by The Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project, an unnamed woman won her lawsuit against an ex who was spreading her naked pics online. She was awarded $6.45 million.
  • What we’re watching: The attorney for MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid (@joyannreid) says Reid’s decades-old The Reid Report was hacked to insert homophobic slurs into old blog posts. The embattled TV journalist is currently fighting for her reputation and has taken her case to the FBI.
  • The highly anticipated independent film Netizens debuted last weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film highlights three women’s experiences with online harassment and abuse. Go to the film’s website to request a screening for your organization.
  • Journalists, it’s unethical to ignore your online security, says this op-ed on Poynter.
  • And Salon offers this piece on How the U.S. Became Troll Nation.
  • This new study, by assistant professor Gina Masullo Chen, at the University of Texas, along with Paromito Pain and Victoria Y. Chen, looked at how online harassment affects female journalists in multiple countries.
  • A bipartisan bill in Michigan could make cyberbullying a felony if it includes a continuous pattern of harassment that leads to serious injury or suicide.
  • And new software from MIT, SquadBox, will combat cyberbullying.

Event: The National Press Club, Washington, DC

Trolling the News: Protecting Journalists from Online Harassment

If you’re in the D.C. metro, don’t miss this event from The National Press Club and PEN America. TrolllBusters founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier is part of the discussion, alongside Soraya Chemaly of the Women’s Media Center, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and other journalists.

WATCH as TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier speaks as part of the Safety of Female Journalists Online project for The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. [February, 2018]


Online Harassment Field Manual

Our friends at PEN America have put together this handy “digital field manual” for writers and their employers, to help them prepare for and combat online abuse. The section on legal considerations is particularly useful in knowing how to document incidents.

In other resources:

  • Feminist Frequency has this guide to protecting yourself from online harassment. It comes in Arabic, English and Spanish.
  • And check out this list of victim resources, from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

Our new chatbot helps you navigate online abuse


  • Misogynistic abuse, particularly of women journalists, is “tediously predictable” says a recent report about the online harassment of women on the Australian Broadcast Corporation.
  • It seems Facebook likes watching. When complete strangers were rating this woman on “how f*ckable she is, she couldn’t gain access to the private group and couldn’t get Facebook to shut it down.
  • Predating #MeToo movement, this Wall Street Journal article describes the long-term effects of online abuse after Whitney Wolfe Herd took on Silicon Valley and Tinder.
  • Abortion fundraisers are suing several entities they say were behind a “multipronged cyberattack,” which hacked their websites, stole donors’ identity and banking information, instigated a DDOS attack on their website and subjected them to harassment from extremists. They are alleging violation of The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
  • top lawyer in Australia says victims of cyberbullying should have the opportunity to sue the platforms that allow it to persist.
  • Cyberbullying is now punishable with jail time and/or a fine in West Virginia thanks to the passage of Grace’s Law, which goes into effect in June.
  • And PBS NewsHour recently asked “Is the U.S. Doing Enough to Fight Russia’s Troll Factory?”

Get Just-in-Time Support
Our Artificial Intelligence Chatbot is Jane On-The-Spot

From our website at or from our Facebook page, our AI-powered chatbot will give you immediate coaching on what to do next in an online attack. We’ll lead you through a series of questions to direct you to just what to do when you’re under attack.

WATCH TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier speaks on a panel for The International Association of Women in Radio & Television, “#MeTooOnline: Workshopping Solutions to Counter Cyber Violence Against Women.” [MARCH 2018]


Lock It Down!

What are you doing to protect yourself from hackers, trolls, and corporate and government surveillance?

These resources will help guide your efforts.

  • The Center for Investigative Journalism offers this handbook on information security for journalists.
  • Digital rights technologist Gem Barrett goes through tactics and tech tools for fighting online harassment in this post on Medium.

An ounce of prevention…What you can do now.


  • MarieClaire asks “Why is the Internet still an unsafe place for opinionated women?” The Mozilla Foundation Internet Health Report looks at digital inclusion, privacy and openness and what can be done.
  • The Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas-Austin surveyed 75 women journalists about their experiences with online abuse. They confirm what we know…daily nastiness on the web is part of the job.
  • Mosaic offers this interesting read (which was also picked up by CNN, Daily Mail and others) on how social media “amplifies the personal rewards of expressing outrage” and can make ordinary people mean.
  • Professors (and their families) are growing targets on online abuse, NPR reports.
  • At an Internews roundtable, Kenyan journalists said they were struggling both with overt threats and attacks where their own lives were in danger, and also with coping with the trauma that comes when “bearing witness to human suffering.” They said their media outlets had done little to assist with the impact of such traumatic experiences on their mental health.
  • The International Association of Women in Radio and Television summarizes two weeks of panels and workshops on online harassment at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York this March.

Listen to this 3-minute segment on TrollBusters and the #MeToo movement and why Dr. Michelle Ferrier, founder of TrollBusters, feels there’s a privilege to being able to speak out and there are many silenced stories that the #MeToo movement has left behind.

“For many, redress for these attacks are out of reach. It can be upwards of $50,000-$100,000 to bring a case to court to have your story be heard. Who has that kind of discretionary income?”

Share Your Social Media Policy With Us!

We believe that when media organizations require reporters to use their personal handles to promote their journalistic work, they also bear some responsibility for helping their reporters cope with or protect themselves against online harassment. We’re collecting social media policies from media outlets, and we’d love it if you would send us yours. We’re particularly interested in what personal information reporters must make public, how they are coached to respond to online harassment, and what resources, if any, are in place to assist. You can send policies to

Recommendations for Media Managers

Concerned about online harassment of journalists in your newsroom? The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, with the help of TrollBusters, compiled a report on online abuse of female journalists. It offers concrete steps management can take to protect its reporters. Read our recap of the report’s recommendations.


Resources to Keep You Safe

This week, check out these great resources on the web.

  • Written by longtime war correspondent Abeer Saady, the International Association of Women in Radio & Television’s “What If?…Safety Handbook for Women Journalists,” is a must-read. It includes a chapter on digital safety. Learn more about IAWRT’s safety guide.
  • hosted a 2-½ hour session to create strategies for supporting women journalists online at Internet Freedom Forum. Attendees produced a gap analysis matrix of online threats and journalists and the organizations fighting to protect them.

OSCE Makes Recommendations for Media Management on Online Abuse

A report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Representative on Freedom of the Media details the threat online abuse of female journalists poses to freedom of the media. Founder of TrollBusters Michelle Ferrier authored the report, part of the 2017 relaunch of OSCE’s Safety of Female Journalists online campaign (#SOFJO). This installment of the report focuses on recommendations for media organizations.

The #SOFJO campaign sought to spread awareness of online abuse and its impacts on female journalists as well as provide tools, resources and other support to those who have been targeted.


Online harassment can have a silencing effect, particularly on female journalists, who, the report states, are trolled more often than their male counterparts. These threats, which can include rape, assault, exile and death, can lead to emotional distress, physical ailments, prolonged stress and physical attack. In addition, the attacks can have devastating effects on female journalists’ career trajectories: they may stop writing, no longer report on important topics, or have their job advancement opportunities diminished by the tarnishing of their reputations and journalistic credibility. They fear for their safety and that of their families, and experience invasions into their privacy.

In addition to the effects on individual journalists, the OSCE report says online harassment poses a threat to the press as a whole. OSCE, which conducted targeted research, surveys and workshops between 2015 and 2017, presented some key recommendations for taking action in the report. These recommendations were directed to policymakers and civil society, media organizations and individual journalists.

The report made these recommendations for media organizations:

  • Respect the needs of individual journalists. Each journalist has her own level of privacy, risk and exposure.
  • Designate a point person who is responsible for collecting reports of online harassment from journalists and engaging other parts of the media organization, such as legal, management and information technology teams.
  • Provide training in supportive and empathetic response and trauma response and effects.
  • Train journalists in where, when and how to report online abuses. Develop various protocols for handling social media accounts in the event of a coordinated attack.
  • Discuss possible strategies with the target of the online abuse and determine how legal and IT teams and colleagues might help.
  • Practice information security techniques throughout the news workflow.
  • Learn how hardware, software, mobile technologies and other workplace platforms leave data and information exposed. Train staff on encryption solutions to workflow.
  • Determine how social media will be used/required for your journalists. Do you have a social media policy? How flexible is it to accommodate different needs of different journalists?

Learn More:

Read the full, final reports, including the latest Communiqué on the growing safety threat to female journalists online on the RFoM website at

Follow the campaign on Twitter @osce_rfom and the hashtag #SOFJO to keep up with the latest developments.

It’s getting kind of…dicey. Rethinking risk for journalists


  • A UNESCO panel at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women reported that both online and offline attacks on women journalists are on the rise.
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists spoke to a dozen sources for this report on the dangers journalists (and their families) face offline when they report on white supremacists, often without digital security support.
  • For your #weekendreading: Amnesty International has issued a new report, Toxic Twitter – A Toxic Place for Women. Broken into eight interactive chapters, it’s a worthwhile, in-depth read.
  • Yes! We can feel it…Female politicians in Scotland call on Twitter to curtail attacks on women.
  • And Fast Company has two rich reads for you: their cover story, “DId We Create This Monster? How Twitter Turned Toxic” and “19 Ways Twitter Can Make Itself Safer Right Now.” The first looked at how the company’s ethos of free speech enabled trolls to thrive on the platform (with some help from lack of internal clarity and insufficient resources to combat trolls and bots). The second presented experts’ suggestions on pragmatic actions Twitter could take to reduce the degree to which it facilitates abuse.
  • The Michigan House moves to criminalize cyberbullying. Will the Michigan Senate take up the bill? A close look at the legislation.


POLL: Does your newsroom have a policy to deal with online harassment of reporters?









Not sure



Michelle Ferrier speaks about online harassment on a panel at ONA in September 2015.

WATCH this ONA keynote featuring Michelle Ferrier and others. [September, 2015]


Stay Safe Online

If you haven’t checked on the security of your personal information in awhile, take a moment to to safeguard against online abuse using TrollBusters’ digital hygiene course.

Then, check out these other great resources on the web.

  • This free MOOC on edX will teach you to “think like a hacker but behave as a security expert.”
  • Or, check out VAWnet, an online library of resources on gender-based violence.