New resources to promote safer online working environments for journalists

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has collaborated with the ABC to release best-practice resources designed to help media organisations better protect their journalists from increasing levels of online abuse they are experiencing in the course of doing their jobs. 

The resources include tips for media organisations on how to support staff to manage and mitigate the risk of social media abuse, preparing staff for engaging with online audiences, and how to respond to abuse online in the most effective way. 

“Today’s journalists are often expected to have multiple social media profiles as part of their jobs, but this increased presence online has left many of them vulnerable to intolerable levels of online abuse,” eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said. 

“We’ve worked closely with the ABC to develop useful and practical resources designed to empower all media organisations and journalists to manage and mitigate the serious impacts of online abuse, which not only seriously impact their ability to do their jobs, but can also have serious impacts on their wellbeing and mental health.”

Targeted harassment on social media is particularly acute for female journalists, who are more likely than men to experience abuse in the course of their work. This abuse often takes the form of violent threats, sexualised language and insults  and references to their appearance or “non-traditional gender roles”, rather than solely attacking them based on their professional work. 

“Our recent Women in the Spotlight (WITS) research report showed women with a media presence were 56 per cent more likely than men to receive online abuse, and for those with a significant public profile the threat was even higher,” Ms Inman Grant said. 

“The report also showed a quarter of professional women were reluctant to move into public-facing roles, including in journalism, sport, or business, for fear of being targeted in this way. That’s got to be a wake-up call for all employers.”

An international study by the Committee to Protect Journalists also found 90 per cent of journalists view online abuse as their biggest threat, but only 25 per cent of journalists report online abuse to their newsrooms.

“We want these resources to help create an open dialogue within media organisations between journalists and their employers about online abuse,” Ms Inman Grant said. 

“And we hope that in the future – when journalists do report abuse to their managers or editors – that these resources will encourage organisations to have solid plans in place to support them, including by reporting to the platform where the abuse is taking place or being guided to the eSafety Commissioner to report serious adult cyber abuse.”

The eSafety Commissioner administers the world’s first and only scheme for online harassment targeting adults with the intent to seriously harm and to menace and harass.

Under this scheme, if journalists are being targeted with violent threats or doxing, and the social media platform fails to respond, eSafety serves as that safety net where people can report to us for help, to ensure the content is removed, and that the platforms are being held to account.  

The launch of the resources comes on the eve of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day and align with this year’s theme of “Journalism under digital siege”.

The social media resources for journalists can be found here

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