Anti-Troll Group Wants to Study Journalists’ Tweets

TrollBusters, a group launched by a professor at Ohio University, has put out a call asking female journalists to share their Twitter feeds so it can get a better understanding of how online trolls work.

Female journalists facing big headaches from trolls now have a resource that can help—and that resource is looking to expand its reach.

TrollBusters, an organization launched a year ago by Ohio University Associate Journalism Professor Michelle Ferrier, has been working on the issue of harassment on social media, specifically of journalists.

Its latest endeavor? The group, according to the Columbia Journalism Review, is seeking the assistance of 100 female journalists and writers for a new program called Pilot 100, which intends to analyze the social media accounts of those who sign up, with the ultimate goal of figuring out how networks of harassers operate online.

The strategy ties in with TrollBusters’ current model, which provides a “virtual S.O.S. team” to assist journalists suffering from widespread troll attacks. The organization, simply put, is gathering data to better understand what it’s dealing with.

The group, born at an International Women’s Media Foundation hackathon in 2015, was created in response to the Gamergate saga, Ferrier said in an April interview with the Nonprofit Technology Network.

“The idea was to counter the Gamergate-type attacks we were seeing on Twitter at the time,” she explained to the website. “We also wanted to test whether positive messaging directed at the target would help these women stay online in the face of a persistent attack by trolls. I am also a target from my days as a newspaper columnist and was channeling my own experience to develop TrollBusters.”

In comments to Poynter, Ferrier added that the objective was to focus on a relatively small group of people facing the most trouble with troll attacks, with the idea of later increasing the network as it received more data.

“Our goal is to test this method with the most egregious cases and then expand the platform to serve others,” she said.

If you happen to be a female journalist or online writer and think that you might benefit from the program, you can sign up via this Google Form.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Ohio University. We regret the error.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!