#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

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.

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



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.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier leads gap analysis.
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.
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.

How To Fight Imposter Tweets

Weekly News, Training & Resources


  • Overdue: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says he’s not “proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough.” He announced an RFP to help measure the health of conversations on the platform
  • Online harassment vs. the First Amendment: A liberal blog and a local tea party chapter joined forces to challenge an online harassment law in Ohio saying it would inhibit free speech. Their suit was dismissed.
  • It’s not just Twitter: Lincoln Park Strategies, RAD Campaign and Craig Newmark of craigconnects surveyed more than 1,000 people about online harassment. The results, presented in an easy-to-scan infographic, may surprise you.


TrollBusters cardsNew from TrollBusters! Our infographic on what to do if you’re being harassed online are now available as cards. The front details the types of threats that journalists experience online. The back tells you what you should do next. Email us if you’d like us to send you one for yourself or a set for your newsroom! Card packs are $5 each. Postage is included in the cost.

What We Can Learn From #Parkland

TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier writes about the case of Alex Harris, a Miami-Herald journalist who was harassed online after bots and others doctored her tweets. Read more in What We Can Learn from #Parkland.


Save the Date!

There are lots of women-centric events happening this month and TrollBusters will be there:

  • The #InternetFF will fight censorship and surveillance March 5-9 in Spain. TrollBusters, along with the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists are hosting a workshop on building global supports for womxn journalists: Learn more.
  • March 8 is International Women’s Day. Follow #IWD2018.
  • We’ll be following the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women #CSW62 from March 12-23. TrollBusters Founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier will present as a guest of the International Association of Women in Radio & Television on #MeToo and online harassment. The review theme for #CSW62 is “participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.” http://ow.ly/YOQu30iJEp

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Want to Avoid Online Abuse? “Be an Androgynous Cat.”


  • She Made Our List: Our heroine this month is Moira Donegan, who created the “Shitty Media Men” list in a private Google document. The list was designed to help young women in media avoid taking jobs that would expose them to sexual harassment, sexual assault and worse. It was intended to serve as a whisper network to women newer to the media industry who may not have had the luxury of access to the traditional “word of mouth” networks. When Katie Roiphe outed Donegan as the creator of the list in Harper’s, Donegan was faced with an onslaught of online harassment. Recently, she wrote about her journey in a compelling piece in The Cut. It’s a must-read.
  • “Want to avoid harassment? Be an androgynous cat”: Female startup founder Julia Enthoven shares the connections she found between gender and online abuse.
  • Fake Tweets Meet Russian Trolls: Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris was covering the Parkland shooting when criticism of her attempt to contact students in the wake of the disaster turned more menacing. Trolls doctored several of her tweets to make it look like she had asked if the shooter was white or if photo or video was available of the dead bodies. USA Today wrote about how this and similar trolling incidents intersect with fake news and Russian bots.
  • Nurses Face Online Abuse: Research shows that in New Zealand, nurses are among the groups vulnerable to cyberbullying as a result of their work. An article in The Conversation asks what should employers be doing to protect them.
  • Enough, She Says: UK Prime Minister Theresa May made headlines when she advocated banning abuse of politicians and public figures online and punishing social media corporations who enable it. Arguments ensued about the role of free speech and technology platforms in a democracy.


New Book Features TrollBusters

A new book, Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology and Harassment, features a chapter from TrollBusters founder Michelle Ferrier about her efforts and online abuse of women journalists. Co-written with Dr. Nisha Garud, the chapter focuses on the individual and news-gathering impacts of online abuseRead more.

“The impact of online harassment is the same as the impact of physical harassment, namely intimidation inhibits women journalists from doing their jobs.” –  Elisa Lees Munoz


READ as Elisa Lees Munoz, executive director of the International Women’s Media Foundation, writes about “How Digital Harassment of Female Journalists Threatens Freedom of Expression” in MediaShift. Featuring TrollBusters! [FEB. 27, 2018]

DON’T FORGET: TAKE OUR SURVEY! TrollBusters in conjunction with the International Women’s Media Foundation is still soliciting your experiences as a journalist or writer. Take the survey.


Stay Safe

online protection rx header graphic
Time for an online security refresher? TrollBusters’ digital hygiene lessons will have you up to speed in no time.

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

New Book Features TrollBusters – Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology and Harassment

Mediating Misogyny book coverA new book, Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology and Harassment, features a chapter from TrollBusters founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier about her efforts to curtail online abuse of women journalists. Co-authored with Dr. Nisha Garud, assistant journalism professor at San Jose State University, the piece focuses on the impacts of online abuse on individual journalists and news-gathering, reporting and engagement processes.

The chapter describes a “chilling effect” that happens when groups such as trolls on social media platforms make it difficult for others to exert their rights to freedom of expression. When pressure through online harassment is applied to silence individual journalists, the “chilling effect” extends to the free press as a whole.

“The chilling effect on individual journalists and journalistic lines of inquiry can lead to the silencing of diverse voices in the media, the technological takedown of a media site, or the abandonment of a line of investigative inquiry,“ the authors write.

They note that online harassment mimics the patterns of oppression and power differentials in the real world, disproportionately harming and silencing women, and ethnic and religious minorities. The problem is intensified by the requirement that journalists “bring their authentic, real identities to their digital work.” The chapter cites data from a 2013 study by the  International Women’s Media Foundation that found that ⅔ of the 149 female journalists they surveyed had been the victims of work-related threats or abuse.

Furthermore, the authors write, “Women journalists often are the targets of some of the most severe forms of online harassment such as rape threats, death threats and hate speech.”

Ferrier, an associate professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, is currently working with international partners to expand the International Women’s Media Foundation 2015 survey work. Journalists are invited to complete the 2018 survey.

The chapter offers steps female journalists can take to prevent online attacks. Among them:

  • Decide whether to use your real name or a pseudonym in your professional endeavors. If you use your real name, trolls can use it to find your physical address and family members.
  • Create separate social media accounts for your personal and professional endeavors.
  • Remove your address and other personal information from aggregator sites.
  • Communicate securely through encrypted channels such as Signal (not through email) with your sources.
  • Use the Tor browser for privacy.  
  • Learn self-defense, even if you aren’t reporting on what you would consider dangerous assignments.
  • Report any attacks you do experience to management, friends, colleagues and the police.

Bloodletting of Bot Accounts in #TwitterLockOut

Weekly News, Training & Resources


Twitter Purge Tweet#TwitterLockOut hashtag activity peaked on Wednesday as Twitter purged bot accounts from users’ networks. Twitter’s actions — explained in this blog post — affected many Conservative accounts, prompting a #MAGA move to platforms like Gab. Russian bots had recently been active spreading hate around the Parkland, Florida high school shooting as reported in the New York Times.

Olympic Athletes Offer Inspiration: Even sports stars at the top of their game have to put up with trolling. Lindsey Vonn said she sleeps well at night despite receiving hate tweets after a mistake in the Super-G. Charlie White also shared how he handles Twitter trolls. The Independent details other athletes’ strategies for staying focused despite a barrage of negativity on social media.

OSCE Report Provides Recommendations for Media Management: A new 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 Dr. Michelle Ferrier worked with the OSCE on the report, part of the 2017 relaunch of OSCE’s Safety of Female Journalists online campaign (#SOFJO). In addition to the effects on individual journalists, online harassment poses a threat to the press as a whole, says the report. OSCE, which conducted targeted research, surveys and workshops between 2015 and 2017, presented some key recommendations for taking action in the report. Read our recap of their recommendations for media organizations or follow OSCE at @osce_rfom to stay up to date.

In other international headlines:

  • In Pakistan, the non-governmental organization DRF released a report, “Digital (In)Security of Journalists in Pakistan.” It shows that most journalists had experienced harassment in some form, which had in some cases led to self-censorship. Read the highlights.
  • In Australia, the proposed Dolly’s Law would work much like a domestic violence restraining order, The proposed law, named after a 14-year-old who took her own life after being cyberbullied, would ban perpetrators from social media, or at least from contacting their victims online.
  • And in Nigeria, Hajiya Maryam Ado-Haruna is calling for measures to prevent Gender-Based Violence Online.


ijnet story screencap

READ this piece about TrollBusters’ services by Sherry Ricchiardi in IJNet. [February 20, 2018]

Ferrier presents at Scripps College

LISTEN as Michelle Ferrier talks to CBC’s Sook-Yin Lee about how TrollBusters is fighting to keep women writers online. [March 12, 2016]


Curriculum Teaches Student Reporters Safety Principles for Dangerous Assignments

Five organizations have come together to help the next generation of journalism students prepare for dangerous assignments, whether they involve war, organized crime and cartels, political revolution, or digital surveillance. The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and the Medill School of Journalism’s National Security Journalism Initiative partnered with the Facebook Journalism Project, Reporters Without Borders and A Culture of Safety to create the four-session curriculum designed for use in reporting courses. Contact the Foley Foundation for access to the Journalist Safety Guide.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Report Makes Recommendations for Policymakers

A new 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 civil society and policymakers.

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.

Michelle Ferrier SOFJO campaign posterOnline 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 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, use a pen name or have their job advancement opportunities diminished by the tarnishing of their reputations and journalistic credibility online. They fear for their safety and that of their families, and experience invasions into their privacy and prolonged stress.

Beyond the effects on individual journalists, online harassment, the OSCE report says, 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 policymakers and civil society:

• Consider providing physical and online support to targets of online abuse.
• Develop better education and training of journalists, management and information technology specialists about workflow protections and data management.
• Examine how social media policies may affect private and off-line time of journalists.
• Provide training to law enforcement to better investigate and prosecute online abuses.
• Work with technology partners to develop better reporting practices.
• Enforce existing legal frameworks and find new technological remedies to counter attacks by bots and smart mobs.

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 http://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media

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