So people have noticed trolls? [comments interspersed]
FOR THE PAST several years, we’ve watched with rising concern as journalists in the United States and abroad have been increasingly subjected to online harassment. As journalism professors specializing in science reporting and violence against the press at George Washington University, we have researched, observed, and written about the rising trend in anti-press attacks through email, instant messages, social media, and other digital channels. Sadly, online attacks and threats have become the new normal in many newsrooms, with the result being that journalists are subject to a form of mob censorship. [So they are finally experiencing the culture they helped create?] Late last year, we began conducting a series of in-depth interviews — ten in total — to learn specifically how online harassment is affecting journalists who cover science. We spoke with science journalists and editors, asking them about the types of digital attacks they have received, as well as the content of those attacks, among other questions. Because these interviews were done as part of a research study, we’ve kept the names confidential in accordance with rules governing research with human subjects. In aggregate, the story they told was disheartening: Like journalists who cover politics and other polarizing beats, science journalists say they are being targeted with digital provocations and hate, and report their newsrooms are doing little, if anything, to protect them. [Most people who suffered from this were not so protected but it sounds like a good idea. ] We spoke with reporters who said they repeatedly received harassing phone calls from readers. In some cases, scary, accusatory messages would arrive by the hundreds on Twitter, Instagram, and by email. Women appeared to bear the brunt of these attacks. [Um, some of us are well aware of that too… ]Lisa Palmer & Silvio Waisbord, “Trolling Is Taking a Toll on Science Journalism” at Undark (May 5, 2022)
If the science journalists want to run a test: Just try claiming that the universe shows evidence of design. And defend yourselves against the trolls.
Otherwise, cry the rest of us a river.
No, seriously, it is a problem. But it is not a new one. And the solutions would include more freedom for dissent.