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Taking on the F

Social media is a useful tool but needs careful handling, says Ruth Addicot

eminism, football, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… it seems any subject can trigger trolls, even writing about not having a TV. Online abuse or ‘trolling’ amongst journalists, especially female journalists, is on the rise.

A survey by the NUJ and University of Strathclyde showed reporters had received death threats and ‘feared for their safety’ with more than 80 per cent saying cyber-bullying extended beyond working hours. At a discussion held by the OSCE (Organisation for Security

and Co-operation in Europe) reporters told of colleagues who had closed social media accounts and stopped writing altogether after personal details were revealed online. Having a presence online is an integral part of the job, but

when it comes to Twitter and other forms of social media, journalists are often on their own. In the NUJ survey, more than 80 per cent of respondents said they had not reported the abuse to the police and more than 40 per cent did not tell their employer. When Emma Barnett, women’s editor at The Telegraph,

received a threat online saying a bomb had been placed outside her home, she ignored it and went to the pub. Catherine Mayer of Time magazine, who also received the threat, reported it to the police, but when she tried to give the officer details of the account (which posted the threat), he had no experience of Twitter and thought she was trying to give him some sort of code. No bombs were found and no one was charged, but it highlighted the problem of who is best equipped to deal with such a threat and how seriously you should take it. Although Twitter offers the option to block or ‘mute’ a

harasser, it can be time-consuming (Times columnist, Caitlin Moran, was getting up to 50 violent/rape messages an hour) and only encourages the harasser to set up a new account. After blocking/reporting 15 people a week and confronting trolls directly on her radio show, Emma now adopts a policy of never reading below the line. “I think the best way is to ignore,” she says. “That’s not

to say I don’t like it when people disagree with me, but if they prefix it with a rude word or they make it very personal in a way it doesn’t need to be, I am not going to engage with them.”

14 | theJournalist

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