Journalists are increasingly attacked online for their work, both by persistent individuals and collective mobs. Harassment takes many forms online, with journalists, their family, and colleagues receiving barrages of hate filled messages. Sometimes these threats can escalate to the physical world, when harassers attempt to identify a reporter’s address and location. However, it’s a lot easier to prepare defenses in advance than while experiencing the stress of harassment. Preparing for these situations puts you in control, and can be deeply empowering. We want to suggest some external resources journalists can use to prepare for harassment by taking steps to cultivate digital security and psychological safety.
PEN America maintains an exhaustive set of resources focused on preventative measures when anticipating harassment, as well as resources for addressing harassment as you experience it (e.g., how to document abuse). It also provides suggestions on psychological safety, considerations if you choose to bring law enforcement into your strategy, as well as short lists of considerations for employers and the people who aim to support you in responding to harassment.
One of the key ways harassers can identify someone’s location and contact information is through pulling it up on one of dozens of data broker sites (e.g., Acxiom, Radaris), which aggregate information about people from state and public court records, publicly-accessible social media sites, as well as personal data sold by a larger constellation of companies trading in customers’ data. As a preventative measure, you can send opt-out requests to data brokers, where you ask that they take down your personal entry from their service. Journalist Yael Grauer has painstakingly assembled a massive list of opt-out procedures for data broker websites.
From the New York Times' Information Security team comes a series of useful documents for journalists who are looking for structured guidance to determine their digital footprint and lock down their social media accounts. At the bottom of this post, you can find resources on finding your personal information on search engines and data brokers, as well as ideal privacy and security settings for social media.
Consumer Reports maintains a great resource called the Security Planner, including a list of vetted resources, coalitions, and services you can turn to during a targeted harassment campaign.
OnlineSOS maintains succinct lists of actions you can take while experiencing harassment, or when bolstering your defenses as a preventative measure. In an effort to get you accurate guidance without any filler, OnlineSOS' response resources are prioritized by the type of harassment you might experience, while preventative steps are organized by the type of information you want to protect.
The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) maintains a resource featuring courses examining different types of abusive actors and their tactics, as well as online privacy and security strategies. The resource hub also includes contact information for getting individual assistance. This resource also highlights a related set of guides maintained by the IWMF and International Center for Journalists called the Online Violence Response Hub, including detailed guidance on implementing these safety strategies.
In partnership with the IWMF, HollaBack! offers a robust set of guides on harassment response, digital safety, and social media privacy. It includes fairly unique topics, including bystander intervention, self-care for targets and bystanders, legal resources, as well as resources to help organizations prepare for harassment.