The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists

UNESCO, Julie Posetti, Nabeelah Shabbir, Diana Maynard, Kalina Bontcheva, Nermine Aboulez

The research paper is an output of a more exhaustive UNESCO-commissioned global study on online violence against women journalists, with a full-length study published mid-2021. It aims to promote the discussion and elicit information about effective legislative, organisational and normative initiatives aligned to international standards for freedom of expression and designed to protect women journalists.

The research work for this paper consists of: a global survey of 901 journalists from 125 countries conducted in five languages; long-form interviews with 173 international journalists, editors, and experts in the fields of freedom of expression, human rights law, and digital safety; two big data case studies assessing over 2.5 million posts on Facebook and Twitter directed at two prominent women journalists (Maria Ressa in the Philippines and Carole Cadwalladr in the UK) undertaken to validate the self-reporting of our interviewees and survey respondents with objective data; 15 detailed country case studies5; and a literature review covering hundreds of scholarly and civil society research publications. A team of 24 international researchers from 16 countries contributed to the study.

A unique aspect of the research is its focus on understudied developing countries recognising that online violence against women journalists is a global problem but one with disproportionate offline impacts and complex intersectional challenges that inhibit effective responses.

The discussion paper provides hard facts and a detailed analysis of the following key findings:

  • Online attacks have real-life impacts. 
  • Misogyny intersects with other forms of discrimination. 
  • Gendered online violence intersects with disinformation. 
  • Online attacks against women journalists have political motives. 
  • Social media platforms and news organisations are still struggling to respond effectively. 

UNESCO, Julie Posetti, Nabeelah Shabbir, et. al. “The Chilling: Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists”, May, 2022