Tactics & Techniques: “Majority of female journalists have been target of online violence – report”

Online violence against female journalists is one of the most serious global threats to press freedom and has contributed to female reporters being murdered, according to researchers behind a new global report.

Academics who interviewed over 1,000 female journalists in 15 countries found the vast majority of journalists who took part had suffered from online abuse and threats.

Today’s tactics and techniques assessment examines the article “Majority of female journalists have been target of online violence – report” by Helen Pidd for The Guardian on 07 Nov 2022.

Tactic: Plan Objectives (TA02)
Technique: Degrade Adversary (T0066)
Technique: Discredit Credible Sources (T0075.001)
Technique: Dismay (T0078)

The team’s analysis found that [an award winning female journalist] was the target of 10,400 separate instances of obvious abuse between December 2019 and January 2021.

It found that the abuse was highly gendered and designed to “humiliate, belittle and discredit” the journalist on both a personal and professional level.

Tactic: Drive Online Harms (TA18)
Technique: Harass (T0048)
Subtechnique: Harass People Based on Identities (T0048.002)

The report illuminates the evolving challenges faced by female journalists dealing with prolific and sustained online violence around the world. It calls out “the victim-blaming and slut-shaming that perpetuates sexist and misogynistic responses to offline violence against women in the online environment, where patriarchal norms are being aggressively reinforced.”

The UK arm of the research found that online violence against female journalists is frequently associated with polarising political debates – such as that surrounding Brexit – and that the Covid pandemic has worsened the situation for female journalists.

Globally, the research found that nearly three-quarters of the female journalists surveyed had experienced online violence in the course of their work.

Threats of physical violence, including death threats, were identified by 25% and sexual violence by 18%.

And 13% described threats of violence against those close to them, including children and infants.

Almost half – 48% – of the female journalists surveyed reported being harassed with unwanted private social media messages.

Tactic: Drive Offline Activity (TA19)
Technique: Physical Violence (T0127)

The report, which is based on research by the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and the University of Sheffield, also maps the online-offline violence trajectory, showing how digital harassment and threats beget offline attacks. It highlights the murder of Mexican journalist María Elena Ferral, who denounced online harassment from the son of a city mayor before she was killed.

Narrative Theme: Misogyny

The intention of this series is to make it easier to understand why the article has been tagged with particular tactics or techniques. Associating reporting of real-world attacks with DISARM tactics and techniques helps us get a better understanding of how they have practically been used, who’s used them, and who they’ve been used against. To do this a relevant quote from the article will be provided under the title of the associated technique. If the technique exists in DISARM, then its identifier will be included too.