Concerned about growing threats to safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists on Wednesday issued a series of recommendations for reporters to take to protect themselves from digital harassment.
The advice was particularly geared to women, and included steps they should take to limit the amount of personal information they make available online.
Harassment reports have increased with the growing use of digital journalism techniques and the desire by many news organizations that their reporters have a greater presence on social media, said Courtney Radsch, the committee’s advocacy director.
Some 85 percent of people responding to a CPJ survey said they believed journalists have become less safe over the past five years and that online harassment was the greatest threat they faced.
Radsch said she was surprised to hear so many journalists who responded to the survey talk about the emotional toll that harassment has taken.
“You can take pro-active steps to make it harder to become a victim of online harassment,” she said.
Journalists were advised to use a password manager, set up two-factor authentication for accounts, and consider using a service that deletes their personal information from the internet. In case of harassment, reporters should get offline, tell their boss or colleagues and not respond to the trolls.
Other advice includes conducting regular searches to see what information appears online about a journalist and their families.
Social media platforms should be contacted to delete posts that attack, threaten, or use personal information without consent, CPJ said. Journalists were advised to document offensive posts.
One hindrance to reporters, either real or imagined, is the sense that they should toughen out such attacks or ignore them.
The CPJ also recommended ways for journalists who work alone in the field to protect themselves.
As of Wednesday, the US Press Freedom Tracker has documented 28 physical attacks against journalists in 2019.
“There is a growing awareness that online harassment is an endemic part of being a journalist,” Radsch said.
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