Social media platforms need to protect journalists

Saturday, 2021-10-16 16:54:53
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A 3D plastic representation of the Facebook logo (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Facebook has announced fresh protections for journalists and celebrities against online attacks as more and more reporters and media professionals are being threatened and killed while on duty.

In a move to correct its mistakes after a serious crisis involving allegations that the social network did not pay attention to its users’ safety, Facebook has expanded the scope of determining attacks (threats and harassment) targeted at public figures.

Accordingly, the US technology giant has included journalists as public figures. During a hearing before US lawmakers, Facebook’s head of safety Antigone Davis said that attacks by extremist groups can weaponise a public figure's appearance.

Journalists are at the forefront of the information battlefield, thus always facing threats. In the US, the leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen was convicted of hate crimes targeting journalists who are against anti-Semitism.

The US Department of Justice said members of the group had created posters with fascist symbols, masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails, and threatening messages, and then delivered or mailed them to the targeted journalists.

In Europe, a total of 908 journalists and media workers were attacked in 23 EU member countries in 2020. The European Commission (EC) said that 73% of female journalists were subject to online violence. Recently the EC made a call to member countries to protect journalists. EC Vice President Vera Jourova said “No journalist should die or be harmed because of their job. We need to support and protect journalists; they are essential for democracy.”

In addition to being threatened, there were 50 journalists and media professionals in the world killed while on duty in 2020 and the number of journalists killed when reporting on organised crimes, corruption and environmental issues is rising, sounding an alarm on the need to protect the safety of journalists. Therefore, social media platforms and governments need to introduce bolder measures to protect journalists.