The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today launched a new protocol for newsrooms to tackle online harassment as a threat to press freedom and reduce the professional and emotional toll it can take on journalists.
IPI’s protocol outlines a four-step framework that newsrooms can take to more effectively protect targeted journalists from the professional and emotional impact of online abuse.
- The first step is creating a culture of safety within the newsroom around online abuse and establishing clear channels to report it. Editors and managers should make clear that the news organization takes online harassment seriously. All staff members and contributors should know whom to report abuse to and how to report it. A point person (online safety coordinator) with the relevant knowledge and stature should be designated to receive reports and escalate them when necessary.
- The second step is assessing the risk that the online abuse represents for the targeted journalist and the media outlet alike. This means assessing not only the physical harm or pyschological damage to the targeted individual, but also the risk of reputational damage to the journalist or media outlet through smear campaigns that seek to discredit independent journalism.
- The third step is implementing support and response measures, which range from digital security support to legal support to emotional and psychological support, as well as online moderation to limit the impact of harassment. (Watch IPI’s expert video tutorials on coping with the emotional impact of online abuse as well as legal remedies.)
- The fourth step is tracking cases of online harassment to assess how effective the support and response measures have been. This tracking also allows newsrooms to spot new trends of online attacks and adapt their measures consequently.
The IPI Protocol is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all. Instead, it offers a framework for newsrooms to tackle the issue of online abuse and provides a series of specific measures that newsrooms can adopt and adapt according to their particular situation.
“The guidelines provide media organizations with specific tools to create a culture of safety in newsrooms around online abuse, one that empowers journalists to report and share the abuse and smear campaigns that aim at silencing them and discrediting their work”, Javier Luque, IPI Ontheline programme coordinator, said.
The protocol is the result of field research that examined best practices in 45 newsrooms across five countries in Europe – Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom – as well as further conversations with editors across Europe and experts in the fields of digital safety, trauma and law.
The protocol is part of IPI’s Newsrooms Ontheline platform, which contains various resources for journalists and newsrooms to address online harassment.
Since 2014, IPI has systematically researched online harassment as a new form of silencing critical, independent media. IPI’s work has unveiled patterns of online attacks, analysed the emotional and professional impact on journalists, and collected best practices for newsrooms to address the phenomenon.
Since 2014, the International Press Institute (IPI) has been systematically researching online harassment as a new form of silencing critical, independent media. Our work has unveiled patterns of online attacks, analysed the emotional and professional impact on journalists, and collected best practices for newsrooms to address the phenomenon.