Michelle Ferrier, Ph.D. Dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University received international recognition for her work around online harassment of journalists. Ferrier traveled to Vienna, Austria on February 12 to present research-based solutions to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as part of their Safety of Female Journalists Online campaign (#SOFJO).
Ferrier presented research from her recent report “Attacks and Harassment: The Impact on Female Journalists and Their Reporting,” published with the International Women’s Media Foundation in October 2018. The panel focused on the specific nature of online threats and outlined further research and policy actions. While in Vienna, Ferrier also worked with researchers and journalists as part of UNESCO’s Global Diplomacy Lab to identify gaps in research and develop a global research collaboration.
Ferrier is the founder of TrollBusters, a service that uses social media monitoring, machine learning and training to support journalists and media organizations fighting online abuse. The organization was nominated for the 2019 World Summit on the Information Society Prize presented by the International Telecommunications Union. Public voting will determine the 18 winning projects to be recognized at the WSIS Forum 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2019.
Ferrier’s research has shown that nearly two-thirds of female journalists who responded to the 2018 survey have been harassed, with more than half experiencing attacks within the past year. Nearly one-third of female respondents considered leaving the profession due to harassment and those early in their careers are twice as likely to consider other job pathways.
Ferrier recently spoke locally in Tallahassee at a town hall meeting hosted by The Village Square on January 29 called “Truth + Trolls: Fourth Estate, First Amendment, Fake News,” where she discussed her own experiences with harassment as a journalist and columnist.
“Journalists are working in hostile work environments, whether it is from attacks from state-sponsored harassers or elected leaders calling journalists an ‘enemy of the state.’ This online rhetoric has painted a target on the back of every journalist here and abroad,” Ferrier said.
Ferrier will be working with the Florida Legislature to advance legislation that will make journalists a protected profession under Florida Statute § 119.071.