Challenging gendered cyberhate and enhancing online safety for women is a major focus area for GEN VIC. Since 2018 we have been leading world-first projects addressing online gendered hate speech.
Our work has focused on encouraging social media users to be active bystanders in calling out anti-social behaviour and abuse, and advocating for online harassment to be considered an OHS issue that affects women journalists. We are interested in investigating the experiences of, and exploring creative solutions to, issues around gendered cyberhate.
We have partnered with a range of leading organisations such as the Victorian Office for Women, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, the Guardian Australia, RMIT University, and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance. Please contact our project lead Caitlin McGrane (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information about the project and to enquire about partnerships.
As a part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to preventing violence against women, girls and gender diverse people, Gender Equity Victoria was funded to develop recommendations for online safety for women working in politics.
This report examines the experiences and impact of intersectional gendered cyberhate on women and gender diverse people working in politics in Victoria. 24 current or former political workers were interviewed, including politicians and staffers. Participants were asked about their experiences of online abuse, including direct (being targeted) and indirect (witnessing); the impact these experiences had had on them; and the changes they would like to see in their workplaces and the wider Australian culture.
Analysis of the interviews revealed three themes: gendered cyberhate is a norm in politics; gendered cyberhate is damaging democracy; and political workplaces need to take responsibility for the online wellbeing of their staff.
Online harassment can be devastating for women, particularly because women are more likely than men to be violently sexually harassed online. In the moment, it can be difficult to remember that there are options available and places women can go to report harassment. This step-by-step guide outlines some of the legal steps you can take when you are being or have been harassed online.
We were funded by the Victorian Women’s Trust grants program to develop a legal resource for women to access when they have been harassed and wish to pursue their legal options. We have worked with partners at the Women’s Legal Service and law firms Maurice Blackburn and Doogue and George to develop this resource.
In 2019 GEN VIC and The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) partnered to launch Australia’s first effort aimed at addressing online abuse of women journalists, in a report identifying the responsibility of media organisations to support the online safety of both in-house and freelance journalists.
The ‘Don’t Read the Comments: Enhancing Online Safety for Women Working in the Media’ report recommends that media organisations should begin treating gender-based abuse against women journalists on social media and websites as an issue of health and safety and take more responsibility for ensuring that women journalists are supported in the aftermath.
A vast majority of journalists had experienced online harassment, trolling and stalking during the course of their work, but only 16% said they were aware of their workplace having existing policies to address online abuse. We are calling for a united industry approach by media organisations to combat the prevalence of online harassment and abuse of women media workers
The recommendations contained in ‘Don’t Read the Comments’ are:
- A whole-of-organisation approach to address systemic and structural sexism in the workplace.
- Training on gender, implicit bias and bystander intervention for all staff in a media organisation.
- Treating gender-based abuse against women journalists on social media and websites as an issue of workplace health and safety.
- Moderation guidelines and training that explicitly address gendered and other identity-based abuse as a subset of abuse that requires a strong response from the organisation.
- Requiring audience members to complete a simple comprehension quiz before they are permitted to comment.
- Requiring commissioning editors to provide specific support for freelance journalists even after the story has been published and invoices paid.
The full report is available here.
GEN VIC's 2020-21 partnership project with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Australian Community Managers (ACM) involved implementing the recommendations from our 2019 'Don't Read the Comments' report.
'Don't Read the Comments' demonstrated the urgent need for action in the Australian media industry to address the psychological, economic and emotional impacts of online harassment of women journalists.
GEN VIC has developed three critical resources to help media organisations and publications better support women journalists who experience harassment:
- Australian Media Moderation Guidelines: these comment and online discussion moderation guidelines are the industry-standard for Australian media to moderate comment sections using a gender and intersectional lens.
- Responding to the Comments: these workplace support guidelines outline organisational responsibilities for helping women journalists deal with the effects of online harassment.
- Media Cybersafety Training: this 3-hour training session is designed for HR professionals and management staff at media organisations to develop policies and procedures that are aimed at reducing the traumatic impact and emotional labour of online harassment on journalists.
These much-needed resources have been developed through surveys, interviews and focus groups with women working in the media, and months of extensive consultation with project partners and academic experts in media production and moderation. The resources address a gap in the Australian media industry where responsibility for dealing with online harassment is often left to the journalists who experience it the most.
Download the Australian Media Moderation Guidelines and Responding to the Comments here:
For information or to register interest in the media cybersafety training, please email Caitlin McGrane (email@example.com).
Missed the launch? Catch up here:
In our 2019 report Don't Read the Comments, we advised that online harassment of journalists should be addressed using a "whole-of-organisation" approach to address systemic and structural sexism in the workplace. This includes unequal gender representation at senior levels, workplace cultures that promote harmful or exclusive displays of masculinity (e.g. a ‘boys’ club’) and reporting and commissioning that reinforces gender bias and negative stereotypes about women.
Taking this approach means that online harassment needs to be understood as an organisational issue, not an individual one. That's why we have created Cybersafety Training for Media Organisations. The training is a three-hour training module where we co-design with organisations to prevent or mitigate online harassment. Using a co-design approach enables us to work with an organisation's strengths, identify their weaknesses and take concrete steps to addressing internal systemic or structural barriers to effectively tackling online harassment.
This training is for media workers who work in non-public facing roles and can be tailored to your organisation's needs, strengths and existing procedures. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.
Cybersafety Training for Media Organisations was co-developed by Clare Arthurs at Swinburne University.
Have you seen a post or a comment on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social media and thought “that’s just not right”, but haven’t been sure what to say?
If you’ve always wanted to step in and say something, we’re here to help. This toolkit gives you a range of strategies and suggestions for how to intervene.
Even if you’ve never thought about intervening, now is the time to realise the importance of stepping in to say something when you see discrimination and harassment.
GEN VIC has developed a social media toolkit and video, the first of this kind in the world, to help people become active bystanders on social media.
The toolkit aims to help get you inspired to stand up for what you think is right online and step in when you see someone participating in or encouraging discrimination.
An active bystander is someone who says or does something when they see harassment and discrimination. You can be an active bystander online by using the suggestions in the toolkit and video.
While we think it’s really important for us all to stand up for what we believe in, we also strongly believe that your safety comes first. If a situation seems too risky, don’t feel pressured to get involved. Do what you can, like take screenshots, report posts to social media platforms, and report any serious harassment to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
If you’re being harassed or threatened by someone online, you are not alone. In cases of serious harassment we suggest you contact:
- Your local police station
- The Office of the eSafety Commissioner if the abuse is image-based
- 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- Lifeline (13 11 14)
- Social media platform administrators
Stay safe and look out for each other.
Looking for more ways to be an active bystander?
- Share the toolkit and video on your social media
- Join HeartMob – this organisation helps connect people who want to be active bystanders with those experiencing harassment and abuse online
- Media release: A new approach to preventing online harassment of women
- The Guardian article: Online sexism targeted in world-first ‘bystander’ project