IPI Launches New Protocol to Assist Newsrooms Tackle Online Harassment

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Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of IPI
Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director of IPI

The International Press Institute (IPI)on February 13, 2020 launched a new protocol, drawn from best practices collected from experts and leading news outlets in Europe, to help newsrooms tackle online harassment and reduce the professional and emotional toll it can take on journalists.

The protocol outlines a four-step framework that newsrooms can take to more effectively protect targeted journalists from the professional and emotional impact of online abuse.

The first step in the protocol is creating a culture of safety within the newsroom around online abuse and establishing clear channels to report it. It advises editors and managers to make clear that the news organization takes online harassment seriously. Importantly, it says all staff members and contributors should know whom to report abuse to and how to report it. It suggests that a point person (online safety coordinator) with the relevant knowledge and stature should be designated to receive reports and escalate them when necessary.

The second step in the protocol is assessing the risk that online abuse represents for the targeted journalist and the media outlet alike. This means assessing not only the physical harm or psychological damage to the targeted individual but also the risk of reputational damage to the journalist or media outlet through smear campaigns that seek to discredit independent journalism.

The third step is implementing support and response measures, which, according to the protocol, range from digital security support to legal support to emotional and psychological support, as well as online moderation to limit the impact of harassment. (IPI has developed expert video tutorials on coping with the emotional impact of online abuse as well as legal remedies.)

The fourth and final step in the protocol is tracking cases of online harassment to assess how effective the support and response measures have been. This tracking also allows newsrooms to spot new trends of online attacks and adapt their measures consequently.

The IPI Protocol is not intended to be a one-size-fits-all but offers a framework for newsrooms to tackle the issue of online abuse and provides a series of specific measures that newsrooms can adopt and adapt according to their particular situation.

Javier Luque, IPI Ontheline programme coordinator, said: “The guidelines provide media organizations with specific tools to create a culture of safety in newsrooms around online abuse, one that empowers journalists to report and share the abuse and smear campaigns that aim at silencing them and discrediting their work.”

The result of field research that examined best practices in 45 newsrooms across five countries in Europe – Finland, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom – as well as further conversations with editors across Europe and experts in the fields of digital safety, trauma and law, protocol is part of IPI’s Newsrooms Online platform, which contains various resources for journalists and newsrooms to address online harassment.

To download and read the full resource, please click IPI Newsrooms Protocol to Address Online Harassment.

The International Press Institute (IPI) is the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom.