Women have been subjected to online violence ever since the digital world took over our lives. Gender-based violence is not only common but also shockingly increasing with time across platforms with very few measures adopted to curb these targeted attacks. Online violence against female journalists is much worse. Female journalists, irrespective of their nationality, have been attacked, trolled, and harassed at the word go on social media platforms, and their gender makes them primary targets for the same. Recently, a report and research paper published by the International Center for Journalists ICFJ, with the backing of UNESCO, revealed that female journalists have been easy targets of online violence for a very long time and the numbers are disturbing.
The paper titled The Chilling: A global study of online violence against women journalists addressed not only the increasing number of online and offline attacks on female journalists but also their plight of suffering from networked disinformation sought to silence critical reporting by them.
Online violence against female journalists
The authors of the research report are Julie Posetti, Diana Maynard, Kalina Bontcheva, Nabeelah Shabbir and Nermine Aboulez. The researchers not only bring to light the numbers but also an in-depth analysis of the reasons behind the rise in these figures. The research covers fifteen countries and includes 1100 surveys and case studies alongside examining over 2.5 million social media posts, engagements and fifteen distinctive detailed case study reports.
The International Center for Journalists ICFJ headquartered in the United States published this paper with full support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The paper highlights how there has been a consecutive rise in the attacks on female journalists across the world. Shockingly, female journalists are not just subjected to violence digitally but also face physical violence, verbal abuse and discrimination offline in their day-to-day working culture.
Women working in journalism around the world have also been prime targets of abuse owing to factors like racism, homophobia and several sorts of discriminatory behaviour by the public. The report further discloses that female journalists also face networked and planned disinformation by agencies, sources and even the public to keep them at bay from reporting critically and rising above in their professional arenas.
The rise in instances of slut-shaming and sexist responses
The paper gives a horrid account of the plight of female journalists revealing that women in this profession have been subjected to brutal attacks of slut-shaming, victim-blaming and name-calling. The paper called political agencies and representatives who have used misogynist ways and propaganda in their attacks against women reporters over the years. It also called out platforms including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook for being home to such wild propaganda and enabling such attacks by not taking necessary actions against culprits.
The report found that British investigative journalist ad author Carole Cadwalladr experienced 10,400 instances of attacks and abuse between 2019 and 2021.
The authors discuss the business models and algorithms of business and social media platforms which have indirectly contributed to the fuelling of hatred. The report states that because these platforms have not taken steps to curb hate crimes, it does put them in a light where they have prioritised revenue over human rights.
The paper leaves a list of suggestions for law enforcement agencies as well as directing them to work towards creating gender-sensitive forensic examination structures to sufficiently understand the results of gender-based online violence that compromises press freedom, individual rights, human rights and the cause of gender equality.
Conclusively, the paper discussed a 25-step tool to further assess responses to online violent attacks to guide enabling women’s freedom of expression without them becoming targeted attacks of abuse. It further points out more than a hundred recommendations that countries can adopt to stop hate crimes against female journalists.