From January 10 to 14, Tomás Dodds (UvA) and Marloes Geboers (AUAS) facilitated a data sprint project within the Digital Methods Initiative’s Winter School 2022.

The project aimed to map digital mobs engaged in attacking journalists on Twitter and Facebook. We looked into Tweet replies and Facebook comments and categorized the nature of such attacks. The background of the research pertains to newsrooms increasingly taking into account audience metrics. Such metrics are partly derived from social platforms and this affects both editorial decisions (Christin, 2020; Petre, 2015) as well as the production of news (Poell & Nieborg, 2018). This metrics-driven tendency is possibly leading to a ‘leaning into’ what is popular on social platforms. At the same time, (digital) violence against journalists is on the rise (Miller, 2021; Waisbord, 2020).

Mobs quickly emerge and can ‘impose’ censorship. 

While social media platforms have made it possible to connect new algorithmic publics to the newsrooms, they also played a role in the increase of hostility toward the press.

Online harassment affects journalists globally, but it also presents local and national particularities (Waisbord, 2020). We expand on ethnographic research of newsrooms in Chile which focused on how journalists perceive and cope with online vitriol (Dodds, forthcoming). With the explorative data sprint, we aimed to move toward answering questions about the role that platform affordances play in allowing and perhaps even intensifying hate targeted at the press. In the preliminary findings, interesting differences were found between harassment discourses aimed at male and female journalists.

Expanding on this, we found differences in the level of the countries assessed. The discourses in Chile tended to a very normative critique on what a journalist should be and do. In contrast to this, we found more personal and offensive language in the responses toward Dutch and UK-based journalists and news outlets.

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