A new study from the international centre for journalists (ICFJ) shows that 73% of female journalists experienced online violence during their career, 25% of which were death threats.
The study, by Julie Posetti, detailed how 26% of women had sought medical help because of the violence online. Some of which even suffering from PTSD.
It continued by highlighting the different abuse women received online. For example, threats and violence towards the women and their family, ‘hateful and sexually explicit abusive language’, harassment through private messages, and body shaming to name a few.
The report included many examples of these cases one of which being Lindy West, a US columnist and author who was body shamed by people online. She reports that one person told her they would: “…gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat”.
Another example was Patricia Devlin who was at the time a reporter. The report said: ‘(Patricia) received a rape threat against her new-born child in October 2019, which came via Facebook Messenger to her personal account.’
Patricia Devlin said: “It was absolutely traumatising… I have never felt disgust and fear like it. I went to the police. That was the turning point for me. I said, I can no longer brush it off. It’s getting worse. My children are being threatened”.”
The report then continued to highlight the relationship between misogynistic language and the online violence towards women. It showed examples of “Classic misogynistic tropes”. Some were ‘witch’, ‘hag’, ‘wh**re’ and the hashtag ‘#presstitute’.
The University of Sheffield partnered with ICFJ researchers and helped produce an analysis of “75,000” tweets about Marianne Spring, a BBC disinformation reporter. They found that 55% of tweets were to undermine her reputation and 27% were ‘sexists and misogynistic’
It also depicted how online violence was more common to occur towards females from ‘minorities’ and ‘marginalised ethnic communities.
A further example highlighted by the report was Greek-born Swedish journalist Alexandra Pascalidou who ‘described being targeted by neo-Nazis and abused with a wide array of racist and bigoted slurs’
Alexandra said: “I’ve been called a dirty whore, a bl**dy Gypsy, Jewish, Muslim sl*t, a Greek parasite, a disgusting migrant, stupid psycho, an ugly liar, a biased hater. They keep telling me to go home, to kill myself or they will shoot me, cut my tongue off, break my fingers one by one. They keep threatening me with gang rapes and sexual torture”
The study ends by suggesting how the government and social media platforms can change their policies to make it safer for female journalists. The long-term aim is to ‘formulate effective legislative, regulatory and policy responses to counter gender-based violence against women journalists while respecting freedom of expression, access to information and privacy rights.’