Online abuse and harassment manifests in various forms and can encompass a huge range of attacks on the Internet, including on major social media platforms, or through the use of specific apps, platforms or technologies. Many of them are gender-based attacks targeted at women journalists as a result of their journalistic activities with the purposes of threatening, intimidating and silencing them, and can range from unauthorised access to their personal accounts to threats of sexual violence. They can have a detrimental impact on women journalists’ ability to carry out their journalistic activities, their personal lives, and their safety.
The abuse can include the following forms:
• Doxxing – This involves the public dissemination of a woman’s personal information, such as email, telephone or home address. This can often result in increased harassment, and create a safety risk.
• Surveillance – Whether perpetrated by public or private entities, the monitoring of a woman’s online and/or offline life through technological means.
• Threats – These are targeted through digital platforms or apps, and often include threats of physical or sexual violence.
• Harassment – Like offline harassment, this can include a range of unwanted and intimidatory activities including contact through messages or apps. Online this can often take the form of ‘pile-ons’, with multiple perpetrators.
• Non-consensual distribution of intimate or sexual images – This refers to the sharing of sexual or intimate images of a woman, which can be taken with (or by her) or without her knowledge, and either by someone who has access to them with consent (but there is no consent for them to be further shared), or by someone who gains access through other means. This can have serious psychological and reputational consequences.
• Stalking – Includes a range of behaviours, similar to offline stalking, such as continued monitoring through technology, the pattern of which leaves the woman feeling unsafe or restricted in her freedoms online.
• Hacking – This is when someone gains access to a woman’s private accounts or devices through malicious means. This can often lead to another form of attack, including blackmail.
• Identity theft or unauthorised use of accounts – Where someone is able to take control of or in some way impersonate a woman’s online presence.
• Discriminatory and sexist speech and gender stereotypes – This can include a wide range of types of speech based on negative stereotypes or on the basis of a woman’s gender, nationality, religious belief, race, among others.
This list is not exhaustive, and women facing online harassment and abuse may experience multiple different attacks of this type, from more than one attacker.