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For female journalists, social media is a necessity and a curse
Female journalists often bear the brunt of anonymous online criticism. Unfortunately, that's part of their job description. - photo by Chandra Johnson
When does freedom of expression cross the line into harassment?

Several media outlets and watchdog groups are now redrawing the boundaries as social media and online commenting forums have forced the public to ask that question.

At the UK Guardian, reporters put their own website under the microscope in a series of stories featuring people who had been victimized by online bullying (on and off the Guardian's site) to better examine what, if anything, can or should be done to address the problem.

What the Guardian and other media watchdog groups like Just Not Sports have found is that online harassment is most often targeted at women.

"New research into our own comment threads provides the first quantitative evidence for what female journalists have long suspected: that articles written by women attract more abuse and dismissive trolling than those written by men, regardless of what the article is about," The Guardian reported.

Just Not Sports posted a viral video in which ordinary men read some of the crudest tweets leveled at Chicago-based sports journalists Julie DiCario and Sarah Spain.

Online harassment is, unfortunately, commonplace for many women. But for journalists, the downside is that it's harder to ignore online harassment when being online is a huge part of the job.

"(Ignoring harassment is) not easy to do now that news organizations expect reporters to build a social-media presence and engage with readers. Especially on Twitter," sports journalist and former athlete Juliet Macur wrote in the New York Times. "In the sports community, Twitter is the social hub of choice for athletes, fans and journalists a giant water cooler in the cloud where people share opinions and ideas."

The solution for onine harassment in general has yet to reveal itself different platforms approach the problem differently, and Twitter specifically has yet to offer for reporting harassment aside from a brief "experiment" it launched last year with media harassment non-profit group Women, Action and the Media (WAM!).

Until more websites take harassment more seriously, The Guardian at least has begun blocking and deleting comments it deems as abusive.

"We wouldnt tolerate such insults offline, and at The Guardian we dont tolerate it online either," the site reported.
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