IGF 2018 WS #271
Old predators, new censorship: how to fight cyber harassment

Organizer 1: sophie busson, Reporters without borderss
Organizer 2: Isabel Amossé, Reporters Without Borders RSF
Organizer 3: Elodie Vialle, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Organizer 4: Elisa Munoz, IWMF

Speaker 1: sophie busson, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Isabel Amossé, Civil Society, Eastern European Group
Speaker 3: Rana ayyub Shaikh, Private Sector, Asia-Pacific Group


Elodie Vialle

Online Moderator

Isabel Amossé


Sophie Busson


Panel - 90 Min


Journalists from various backgrounds (nationality, field of work) will share their experience of cyber-harassment and trolling. They will also share initiatives to resist and keep on with their work, as they are at the frontline of the fight against these attacks, together with NGOs and security experts. The variety of their backgrounds will help to highlight the responsibility of state authorities and platforms, but also the need to act for media organizations . 
RSF will introduce its new report on cyber harassment of journalists as a new mean of censorship for predators to shut down the free flow of information. The report specifically highlights the new trend of troll armies and the gendered specificity of cyber harassment. 
IWMF will introduce its study on the scope and impact of digital harassment of women journalists, and practical ways for journalists to resist online violence.


Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist, investigative reporter and writer. She is the author of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up and the victim of an online smearing campaign aiming at making her stop reporting.

Abdou Semmar is the Algerian editor in chief of Algérie Part , member of Africtivistes, who suffered online death threats and harassment

 Elodie Vialle is a French journalist and digital expert, head of RSF Journalism and technology desk.

Nadine Hoffman is the deputy director of International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF)

Maria Ressa is a leading Filipina journalist and CEO of Rappler, online news site based in the Philippines. In 2017, she accepted the National Democratic Institute’s Democracy Award on behalf of Rappler for its coverage of disinformation in the Philippines. She has more than thirty years of experience working as a journalist in Southeast Asia. She and her media suffered online harassment

1) Moderator : presentation of the panelists
2) Solution focused panel followed by a moderated discussion :
Participants from diverse backgrounds (journalists,, representant of NGOs) will discuss the challenges of such new means of censorship, the responsibility of States and private companies, to find solutions for journalists to counter this online harrassement
- In the context of digital transformation, social media now appear as the last sanctuaries for independent press. However press freedom predators develop new ways of censorship on those platforms : What are the new means to censor journalists online ? - 
1) to extend their propaganda and disinformation 
2) to muzzle independent medias (users’ account shutdowns, surveillance, cyber harassment) presentation of new International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) research about online harassment against women journalists
- Online harassment can have a silencing effect, particularly on female journalists who are are particularly exposed as they suffer gender based violence on the internet
- Trolls, bots, AI, cyber soldiers become the new information mercenaries, serving predators. How to hold States accountable for using or not opposing such new methods of censorship ? How should States get involved in fighting online harassment? 

GAFA sometimes honour States’ abusive demands of censorship, without any public justification or accountability. Are GAFA complicit in Predators’ censorship? (min) 

How to fight trolls, bots, and other online threats without being censors? How to give citizen journalists tools to resist such attacks ? How to specifically address online gender-based violence?

Q&A : 25 minutes

The moderation will be interactive and inclusive. The audience will get the possibility to express its own view and ask for advice and tips to encourage innovation during the Q&A. The goal of the moderator will be to promote the exchange of best practices between the participants to maximise the impact of the session, so that everybody gets the possibility to find out concrete solutions

Orchestrated by political, economic and religious motives, cyber-harassment is perpetrated by individuals and authorities . It has become a threat to press freedom and for journalists as individuals, with real life consequences, such as exile, self-censorship, and journalists quitting reporting. 
Troll armies insult, threaten and everyday use more advanced techniques (doxxing, deep fakes, ...) to shut down access to information, to extend propaganda and disinformation 
and to silence journalists, particularly female journalist. As a consequence it is very difficult for journalists alone to keep pace with this rapid rate of technological changes. Some journalists have found ways to escape from the threats and resist, sometimes helped by human rights organisations and private initiatives (trollbusters). It is essential to give these resources visibility. 
Behind these troll armies lie different kinds of power who indirectly censor journalists. Running after the trolls and trying to unmask them is not enough. One should look into the responsibility of various actors to curb this phenomenon and truly ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists, in conformity with the UN Resolutions such as the UNGA 2017 resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity. 
Authorities need to take more action to implement policies that protects the online space; platforms’ responsibility also needs to be addressed, not only because of their central role in the public debate, but also because they - voluntarily or not - contribute to the spreading of cyber violence; and media organizations need to address this threat as resolutely as they do with physical threats and attacks.

Online Participation

RSF offers to ensure online participation with a streaming with a live streaming on our Facebook fan page (more than 250 000 followers). We will provide them with the possibility to interact with us during the debate. The moderator will ask questions from our online community at the end of the debate. The idea is to deliver an inclusive, collaborative and crowd-sourced presentation.