French journalists suspended after explosive cyberbullying allegations

12 Feb 2019195 Views

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Several French journalists have been suspended from their jobs for allegedly coordinating targeted online harassment via social media.

A group of journalists in France is accused of cyberbullying mostly female colleagues on Twitter and Facebook, according to the Associated Press. Cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles and newspaper Libération yesterday (11 February) announced they have suspended three journalists who were working for them, including the creator of the Facebook group where the targeted harassment took place. The group was active between 2009 and 2012.

French media has dubbed the group a “boys’ club”, referring to its allegedly macho culture. Following the discovery of the group by Libération, several female journalists in France have publicly accused group members of cyberbullying, coming out with their stories in part due to the change brought on by the #MeToo movement. Many of the accusers said they knew the identities of their harassers but were afraid to speak out on the matter.

Secret cyberbullying group

The BBC reports that the largely male ‘Ligue du LOL’ (League of LOL) posted and shared content mocking women, including peers in the journalism industry. Sexist, racist and homophobic content was also commonplace. Photoshopped explicit images and jokes about sexual assault thrived on the platform.

People in the League of LOL group also set up anonymous accounts on Twitter to harass prominent activists, writers and journalists, primarily focusing on targeting women. One YouTuber, Florence Porcel, accused members of harassing her in the workplace.

Several writers suspended

Online editor of Libération, Alexandre Hervaud, is among the journalists suspended from their jobs. Freelancer Vincent Glad has also been suspended from the same paper. Libération is now carrying out an internal investigation into both men.

Hervaud said the group “never aimed to coordinate hateful campaigns targeting anyone”. He added: “But it doesn’t serve to minimise or deny the evidence. The permanent spirit of mockery and cynicism of the group obviously influenced the actions of certain more borderline members, notably those covered by anonymity, who, by the snowball effect, inspired other internet users outside the group.”

French minister for digital affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, branded group members as “losers”, adding: “It is a group of guys high on their power at being able to make fun of other people. Except that their mockery had an effect in real life.”

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com