Women communication and media experts from around the world shared their experiences with online violence, its impact on their health and how together, we can build a safer internet.
By Ruby Winter, Team TrollBusters
The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT-USA) and the Media Innovation Collaboratory hosted TrollBusters Founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier in an online workshop on July 23, to take up the global work of policy and strategies begun at the United Nations Generation Equality Forum on women’s rights online. The workshop, titled “With Liberty and Inclusive Technologies for All” examined the harms in the code, content, conduits and access to technologies critical to sharing stories.
View the first hour of the workshop, “With Liberty and Inclusive Technologies for All” on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/583572242/c5f548ce68
The leadership of the Media Innovation Collaboratory and IAWRT-USA came together to discuss ways to make technology more inclusive. Experts from around the world spoke with Dr. Michelle Ferrier, the founder of TrollBusters and executive director of the Media Innovation Collaboratory, who moderated the virtual workshop-session. More than 40 participants pondered over the question, ‘How can we make technology a space that is safe and healing for women communicators?’
Lightning talks by women journalists, technologists and communicators around the globe helped shape perspectives around how technologies and social media have been weaponized to silence marginalized voices around the globe.
Autumn Slaughter, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate, Research Assistant for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, The University of Tulsa.
Judy Gilbert, Zen Priest and Former Manager of International Production at Netscape.
Shireen Mitchell, Founder/ Senior Strategist, Stop Online Violence Against Women and Founder of Digital Sisters/as.
Gerd Inger Polden, Retired TV Director/ Producer/ Video journalist, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), IAWRT Norway.
Ananya Chakraborti, National Award-winning Documentary Filmmaker and Journalist, specializing in trafficking and other gender issues, and Chairperson, West Bengal Commission for protection of Child Rights.
Sara Chitambo, Filmmaker, Community Builder, and Communication Strategist.
Participants and panelists engaged in small-group dialogue where participants shared their strategies and needs. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Journalists have been under threat for a long time
Online technologies have made targeted harassment toward journalists visible. Gerd Inger Polden spoke from Norway and is a leader in IAWRT International. She shared her experience of receiving real-life threats while working on a documentary on at-risk communities. In order to ensure the safety of her crew and subjects, she asked the authorities for protection. When women journalists are facing similar abuse online, they can turn to their editors or managers for guidance.
- The internet is especially dangerous for minority journalists
Brazilian journalist Marry Ferreira shared that in the field of journalism; harassment, especially online, is an everyday occurrence. In an atmosphere charged with disinformation related to COVID-19, many individuals journalists and media organizations are being attacked. Many journalists are targeted especially because of their race or gender. Shireen Mitchell, the founder of Digital Sisters/as echoed this sentiment. She argued that while many women are victims of online abuse, harassment towards women of color is particularly vicious.
- This constant abuse and stress hurts women journalists
Autumn Slaughter has spent the last five years working with women journalists and analyzing their physical and mental health. She said that online harassment, occupational stress and the lack of support from organizations and loved ones takes a severe toll on female reporters. In her research, she has noticed that many of them are suffering from anxiety, depression and trauma caused from their work or related experiences.
- So we should create a culture of empathy
Judy Gilbert’s work involves practicing trauma-informed therapy. She emphasized that women journalists can benefit a lot from slowing down. Whether that is taking a break from their work for a short time, staying away from social media or just completing their to-dos without a sense of rush — slowing down can help women journalists feel grounded.
- We should also build a community
During the session, many of the speakers shared the importance of having a group of trustworthy family members, friends or colleagues; in person or online. Sara Chitambo, a filmmaker from South Africa mentioned that she herself created an online safe space that serves storytellers. There, they can come to share their difficulties or anxieties and connect with each other. Dr. Michelle Ferrier also emphasized that having such a trust circle can be healing and that the weekly drop-in coaching provided by TrollBusters throughout 2020 gave journalists a chance to vent.
Panelists and participants acknowledged the complexities of solving for their own needs and also working alongside media organizations, technology companies and each other to amplify attacks to create pressure on bad actors and show online support.
Ruby Winter is a writer and researcher with Team TrollBusters. She can be reached at report(at)troll-busters.com.
Join TrollBusters in August for Toxic Avenger Power Hour!
TrollBusters Toxic Avenger Power Hour:
Wednesday, August 18, 9-10 AM EST.
Team TrollBusters and Founder Dr. Michelle Ferrier provide open coaching, training and support to journalists on digital resilience, mindfulness and strategies for staying safe online and off. One hour to focus on you.