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How to Protect Journalists from Online Harassment

Big technology companies are both unwilling and unable fully to address the the cyberharassment problem by themselves. By following France’s example and introducing new laws, policymakers elsewhere also could help journalists and other at-risk groups to fight back against online abuse.

NEW YORK – France is one of the few countries that have introduced laws that address cyberharassment, including that aimed at journalists. Others would do well to emulate it.

Online harassment of journalists is a growing problem, with harassers often targeting those who write about trolls, white-supremacist groups, and other nasty patches of the web’s underbelly. And women journalists are the most vulnerable – particularly when they cover supposedly “male” topics such as sports, says Sarah Guinee, who researched online harassment as a Patti Birch fellow for gender and media freedom at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Generally, journalism associations and defenders of free expression tend to agree with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that in a “marketplace of ideas,” all ideas should be on the table, and the best ones will win out. In other words, we should fight bad information and ideas with better information and ideas.

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