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Web Activists Changing Face of Journalism

Tahir Sq 2011 pic alliance dpa
The protests in Tahir Square, Cairo in 2011 were largely coordinated on social media platforms.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Internet has allowed unfettered reader engagement with journalists and news organizations, driving up the amount of scandal and abuse. Journalists have to redefine and justify their roles to regain public trust.

  • Facts


    • Online anonymity has allowed abuse and threats against journalists to flourish.
    • Journalists and news organizations are often criticized for stimulating outrage and scandal by a public whose appetite for scandal is insatiable.
    • Social media played a key role in uniting demonstrators and informing journalists during the Arab world uprisings from 2010 to 2012.
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The unnerving message could have come from Islamic State: “May his hands be broken multiple times or simply chopped off.”

It wasn’t from IS, however. It was from a German reader,who was upset about an article by Steffen Dobbert, an editor at the popular German news website ZEIT Online, about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Separately, a viewer referred to Katrin Eigendorf, a journalist at German public-service television broadcaster ZDF, as an “agitator.”

And Golineh Atai, a correspondent for the ARD public broadcast channel, who reports regularly on the Ukraine conflict, was the target of particularly harsh criticism: “This woman is disgusting,” a “revolting propaganda dummy,” and “political vomit.”

All of these attacks are recent – and were made publicly on the Internet. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that if the authors of these kinds of comments weren’t hiding behind fictitious names, they would have been in court long ago. What they are doing is extreme and offensive.

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