IGF 2022 WS #326 Platform Responsibilities for Journalist Digital Safety

Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (10:45 UTC) - Thursday, 1st December, 2022 (11:45 UTC)

Organizer 1: Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 3: Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization
Organizer 4: Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Speaker 1: Julie Posetti, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Guilherme Canela Godoi, Intergovernmental Organization, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 3: Paula Martins, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization

Additional Speakers

Nompilo Simanje, Legal and ICT Policy Officer, MISA Zimbabwe


Panel - Auditorium - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1. What are the current most pressing digital safety threats against journalists? 2. What are the responsibilities of digital platforms to respond to these challenges? How are they responding, and is it sufficient? 3. What kind of regulatory frameworks are needed to ensure that journalists are protected from digital threats online?

Connection with previous Messages:



Targets: UNESCO's work on safety of journalists directly links to "Indicator 16.10.1: Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates in the previous 12 months".

This workshop, co-organized by UNESCO and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), will focus on avenues to promote the digital safety of journalists and the role and responsibilities of platforms in tackling online violence and digital attacks against journalists. It will focus specifically on (gendered) disinformation and threats against the safety of women journalists. Journalists today face acute threats not only in physical space, but increasingly in the digital realm.

Surveillance, spyware, and online violence are but a few tools in an increasingly sophisticated toolbox of attacks against journalists and their sources. These threats do not affect all journalists equally - a survey from UNESCO and the ICFJ showed that 73% of women journalist respondents had experienced online violence. Not only do digital threats often transfer into physical violence, they have a chilling effect on press freedom, and stand in direct opposition to the idea of an open, rights-based digital public space. This session will come at the end of a year of action on digital safety.

It will be informed by discussions that took place during the 2022 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, held under the theme “Journalism Under Digital Siege”. It will present an opportunity for UNESCO to present the Risk Management Guide for UNESCO in the context of journalist safety, which was consulted on in September among a multi-stakeholder group in cooperation with International Media Support. It will also take forward multi-stakeholder consultations organized on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary on the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and the outcomes of the Vienna Conference on the UN Plan of Action scheduled for 3-4 November.

Building on the conclusions of these consultations, the session will analyze the responsibilities of digital platforms in addressing digital threats to journalists, by calling on the adoption of this Risk Management Guide as through other tools and mechanisms such as internet platform regulation to secure information as a public good and increased data transparency. Furthermore, the concrete recommendations to social media platforms contained in the forthcoming UNESCO study “The Chilling – Global Trends in Online Violence Against Women Journalists” will feed into the discussion. The open panel discussion will help to concretize the next steps in the roadmap to address digital threats against journalists, particularly with a view of how to best approach platform regulation in this regard.

Expected Outcomes

The discussion will help shape research, advocacy, and policy efforts on the topic of the digital safety of journalists. Specifically, it will contribute to the development of principles for the governance and regulation of content on online platforms, ahead of a conference focused on this topic organized by UNESCO in February 2023, as well as the work of global coalitions on (digital) safety of journalists.

Hybrid Format: UNESCO will build on best practices in organizing hybrid events, including through World Press Freedom Day which brought together 1,000 participants on-site and over 1,500 online. Many of the session speakers also joined remotely from all over the world. The session will include both an online and on-site moderator, who will cooperate closely to ensure that questions and comments from both online and in-person participants are communicated and highlighted during the session. The open discussion will give equal attention to questions and comments received both from in-person participants as well as those joining online. Bearing in mind that the chat function is often an easier avenue for the audience to provide remarks, the chat will be monitored by the online moderator particularly to look out for concrete ideas that could feed into the discussion. We also foresee that some of the panelists may join remotely, especially in the interests of ensuring geographic diversity and allow for perspectives of those who may not be able to join in person.

Online Participation


Usage of IGF Official Tool.


Key Takeaways (* deadline 2 hours after session)

Gendered online violence against journalists is a structural problem, how to combat it needs to be an integral element of the internet governance discussion and a more effective institutional response, including by social platforms is urgently needed.

The UNESCO/ICFJ research "The Chilling" provides key insights into the impact of online violence as well as clear recommendations to different stakeholders on how to address it.

Call to Action (* deadline 2 hours after session)

All actors of the internet governance structure, including social media platforms must take gendered online violence against journalists serious as an attack on Freedom of Expression and put in place effective counter-measures.

Session Report (* deadline 26 October) - click on the ? symbol for instructions

The session was co-organized by UNESCO and APC and brought together speakers with different areas of expertise on the topic of gendered online violence. UNESCO and APC both have implemented an extensive range of projects on the topic of safety of women journalists and as well as cooperated on this issue, last by organizing a consultation process looking at how gender perspectives can be more strongly integrated in the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Julie Posetti from the ICFJ presented key statistics from a report jointly published with UNESCO. “The Chilling” highlights the severity and the impact of gendered online violence on women journalists and on freedom of expression more broadly. She specifically stressed the online to offline trajectory and pointed out that 20% of surveyed women journalists said that they had been attacked offline in connection with online violence. According to Posetti, “online violence aids and abets impunity for offline violence”.

Nompilo Simanje confirmed similar findings for the Southern African region, where perpetrators also target women journalists largely without consequence. Due to this situation of impunity, Simanje spoke of a “normalization of online violence”. She particularly emphasized two manifestations of online violence, namely doxing, the sharing of personal information of a victim and digital surveillance.

Guilherme Canela from UNESCO stressed that gendered online violence is a structural problem, calling for an institutional response. He argued that combatting gendered online violence should be considered as an integral part to the internet governance discussion and called for an internet which is free, independent and pluralistic but also safe for all of its users. He introduced recommendations published by UNESCO and ICFJ in 2022 as part of “The Chilling” which provide actionable advice to different stakeholders on how to effectively address online violence against women journalists.

Building on this introduction of the recommendations, Julie Posetti provided further insights regarding the specific sets of recommendations directed at internet platforms and at political actors and States. In both cases, she emphasized the need to put in place mechanisms and structures that specifically stop actors perpetrating violence against women journalists.

In the following, Nompilo Simanje emphasized the need for tech platforms to increase capacities that allow for an understanding of local languages and contexts. Julie Posetti raised the increasing issue of extraterritorial attacks against journalists and how violence against them perpetrated online radiates into offline spaces, event internationally.

Finally, UNESCO’s Guilherme Canela introduced a risk assessment framework currently being developed by UNESCO for digital platforms. This risk assessment framework can guide platforms on how to better minimize risks and harm for users, including by taking into account risks of gendered attacks and the proliferation of gendered disinformation. The risk assessment framework will be presented in February 2023 during the “Internet for Trust” conference on platform regulation organized by UNESCO.

The session terminated with a series of questions from the audience.