News Outlets Around the World Report Findings from ICFJ-UNESCO Study on Online Violence

By: 11/22/2022
The cover of The Chilling: A global study of online violence against women journalists. Edited by Julie Posetti and Nabeelah Shabbir. Graphic image of woman's profile with several women's faces imposed on top of it.

Recent media coverage spotlights the critical findings and recommendations from a groundbreaking study on gendered online violence targeting journalists.

The Chilling: A global study of online violence against women journalists has been featured in coverage at news organizations all over the world, including the Times of London, The Guardian, the BBC, Belgium’s Le Soir and India’s Hindustan Times. The Guardian’s news coverage of the 300-page book said it “illuminates the evolving challenges faced by female journalists dealing with prolific and sustained online violence around the world.”

The UNESCO-supported publication features over 100 recommendations for action and practical new tools to help fight a global scourge that threatens journalists’ safety and poisons democratic discourse. The study, spanning three years and representing collaborative research in 15 countries, is the most geographically, linguistically, and ethnically diverse scoping of gender-based online violence to date. 

Edited by ICFJ’s Dr. Julie Posetti and Nabeelah Shabbir, the book draws on the testimonies of more than 850 international women journalists who were surveyed and interviewed over a three year period.

The Chilling also includes three big data case studies that take readers into the core of online violence storms through an analysis of nearly 3 million social media posts. The case studies, undertaken in collaboration with University of Sheffield computer scientists, focus on the experiences of three women journalists: Maria Ressa in the Philippines, and Carole Cadwalladr and Marianna Spring in the United Kingdom.

The Guardian highlighted the analysis of the case of Cadwalladr, who is a writer for The Guardian & The Observer. In an analysis of nearly 2.1 million tweets directed at Cadwalladr, researchers identified 10,400 tweets as “clearly abusive.”

Past Coverage

UNESCO commissioned the global study in 2019 and it has generated multiple publications and policy responses since then. 

Over the course of the research period leading up to the full book’s publication, UNESCO and ICFJ published a report presenting the findings of a global survey in 2020, a research discussion paper in April 2021, and two individual chapters extracted from this study: What More Can News Organizations Do to Combat Gendered Online Violence? and Assessing Big Tech’s Response to Online Violence Against Women Journalists in May 2022. 

The first findings were published in December 2020, drawing attention from outlets such as the Columbia Journalism Review, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, the Independent, Inter Press Service and Voice of America. In May 2021, a high-impact research discussion paper was reported on by Agence France Press, Al Jazeera, the BBC, CNN, France24, the Observer, the Independent and Le Monde among more than a dozen outlets.

The Washington Post editorial board called the online assault against Ressa, who is a Filipino-American journalist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, “a worldwide warning” in March 2021, citing ICFJ research associated with The Chilling

The new, full-length study features a foreword written by Ressa, who called the study a vital, at times gut-wrenching, call to action. At the time of writing, Ressa was fighting  her cyber libel conviction in the Supreme Court, having just lodged her final appeal. She continued to battle six other cases being prosecuted by the Philippine government concurrently.

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