News organizations should create a database to keep track of incidents of online harassment and responses taken to them. Documenting the attacks will help with any future legal action. It will also help identify the most types of attacks and sources, information that can be used to revise safety measures and response procedures.

Management needs to assign a member of the staff to curate and manage this database to keep track of the cases. Ideally, this person would be the Online Safety Expert, who should have the strongest overview of the newsroom measures applied to assist the targeted journalist.

This database can take the form of a spreadsheet in which the responsible staff member logs every instance of online harassment and tracks any futher steps. E.g., if psychological support was offered, was it helpful? If a legal case has been filed against the perpetrators, what is the current status?

Log the following items per each instance of attack:

  • Name of the journalist targeted
  • Gender
  • Type of attack:
    • Direct threats: Threat of physical harm, death threats, rape threats
    • Implied threats: Online aggressors may express a “hope” or “wish” that harm befalls a journalist
    • Verbal insults: Posts on the media outlet’s comments site that include abusive language in violation a media outlet’s Terms of Use or comments on social media considered abusive by editors and/or social media managers.
    • Smear attempts: The use of language or images (e.g., memes or photographs) that aim to aim to damage the journalist’s reputation or credibility
    • Hacking attempt
  • Screenshot/image of the attack
  • URL of the instance of attack
  • User name of the perpetrator
  • Topic of targeted article
  • Assessment of threat level
  • Use of peer-support system: Yes(which one) / No
  • Mental health support: Yes / No (Functionality to show current status)
  • Legal case: Yes / No (Functionality to show current status)
  • Other support measures applied: e.g., relocation, reassignment, temporary leave
  • Digital security measures implemented

Actor: Online Safety Expert.