A new report from The Committee to Protect Journalists emphasizes how political commentators lack the luxury to chalk every instance of cyber persecution up to the boredom of imbittered delinquents. Real harassment is actually threatening people’s safety.
“I wish my male coworkers knew how prevalent this issue is—that just being a woman on the internet makes you a target.”
According to the survey, 90% of reporters working in the US occasioned online harassment as the biggest threat to their profession, with an additional 85% believing the problem has worsened over the last five years, especially for women and gender non-conforming professionals. Alongside threats of violence female respondents reported an influx of unsolicited sexual advancements.
“Sources would contact me through social media to ask me out on dates, on top of the usual harassment through Facebook comments,” Lauren, an online and print reporter based in New England, recalled Lucy Wescott of CPJ. “It’s hard for women to deal with harassment in any setting because we’re socialized to be ‘nice’. There’s also the threat of losing a source if you call them out on their behavior. We have to suck it up a lot of the time.”
Saying nothing of the adverse effects these concerns must have on an employee’s well-being, they dually force considerations that put female reporters at an inherent disadvantage. Unlike their male co-workers, they have to employ certain precautions about what they can say and how in order to mitigate worrying feedback-a uniquely trying contrivance in the world of journalism, where efficiency is measured by candor and integrity. Wescott, who authored the new report, and her team suspect that the current administration might be validating an impulse that has always been there while social media platforms are doing very little to attenuate it.
“We don’t want journalists to be fearful of reporting on issues,” Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists. explained in a statement following the release of the survey. “It’s not enough to mute or block somebody, you need to know if those threats are coming through, and we need more proactive responses from the tech platforms.”
There’s a way to articulate opinions cogently without the intention to offend, unfortunately, the study suggests that when an individual that belongs to a perceived minority is active on the internet, their words are saddled with politics and tensions by virtue of merely being. The internet is appreciative of public intellectuals that are men or minorities that can be ventriloquized. No exception.
Liz Plank of VOX adds, “Men get attacked for their opinions, and women get attacked because they have opinions,” Plank said, corroborating the new reports suspicion that online attacks are worse for women of color and LGBTQ journalists. “I love being criticized for my arguments. I welcome that and love to be challenged, but most of the negative comments have nothing to do with the argument that I’m making.”