Almost a fifth of women journalists considered leaving industry due to online harms, report finds

Posted on: March 8, 2023 by Claire Meadows

Almost a fifth of women journalists have considered leaving the industry due to the threat of online harms, a new report has found.

The research, conducted by Women in Journalism (WIJ) and Reach plc and launched to coincide with International Women’s Day, also found that three-quarters of women journalists in the UK have been threatened or felt unsafe during the course of their work.

More than 400 women responded to the online harms survey conducted by the WIJ and Reach, which also found that almost half of respondents admitted to promoting their work less online due to the threat of online abuse and harassment.

Twitter and Facebook were identified by the majority as the major platforms upon which harms were experienced with the most prevalent categories of harm including hate-speech, backlash or pile-on and personal comments reported by respondents in the past year. A fifth of respondents said they had also been subjected to harassment, sustained abuse or stalking in connection to their work. The comments provided by participants also highlighted a frustration about the lack of accountability of social media platforms, the report stated, while also suggesting a sense of resignation. Many participants alluded to online harm being seen as ‘part of the job’ and suggested that there was little that could be done by individuals when social platforms refused to take action, the report found. 

In the wake of the research, Women in Journalism is calling on broadcasters, publishers and media organisations in the UK to commit to creating an Online Harms Policy designed to support all staff including freelancers and designate a permanent staff member to act as a champion or leader in connection to online harms.