"Report on the State of Resources Provided to Support Scholars Against Harassment, Trolling, and Doxxing While Doing Public Media Work," a report by Dr. Alex Ketchum

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Published: 23Jul2020

The following is an excerpt from the report written by Dr. Alex Ketchum. The full report can be found here and a PDF copy of the report is available at https://publicscholarshipandmediawork.blogspot.com/p/report.html

This summer, we sought to understand the kind of resources Canadian universities actually provide to support scholars doing public facing media work. We wanted to know: what information universities make available to scholars for dealing with trolling, doxxing, and harassment when they do public facing scholarship and media work; the availability of that information online (on the Media Relations Offices’ websites); and the information that Media Relations Offices/Newsrooms make available to scholars that might not be on their website (plans, policies, advice). The goal of this research is to establish what practices already exist, what information and resources are missing, and to encourage all Canadian universities’ Media Relations Offices to develop a best practices plan.

After looking at the Media Relations Offices’ websites of every Canadian University, we found that no information directly related to the topic of trolling, doxxing, or harassment on any Media Relations Office website, with the exception of one university. Even if information regarding trolling, doxxing, or harassment was not available on the university websites, we wanted to know if university Media Relations Offices had internal materials, protocols, or plans. From May to mid-July 2020, the research team contacted every Canadian university’s Media Relations Office via email, using the same English or French script explaining the research project and asking what materials the office had for scholars regarding what to do, the risks, or the protocols of trolling, doxxing, or harassment that a scholar might encounter while doing public facing scholarship. If offices did not respond within a few weeks to the first contact, they were contacted a second time, leading to a response rate of 41%. For the Media Relations Offices that acknowledged the threat of trolling, doxxing, or harassment, most offices dealt with the issues on a case by case basis. We found that no Media Relations Offices had explicit protocols or documents, with the exception of one university. Two Media Relations Offices already incorporate discussions about trolling in workshops and three want to begin to include this material in future workshops. The most optimistic findings from our research is that since this project began in May, several universities have already begun to work on creating protocols, documents, or workshops related to these topics. We were buoyed to hear that while some Media Relations Offices had never considered creating protocols or assembling resources in case scholars experienced harassment, some have used this project as inspiration to create these resources on their own campuses. We hope that with the release of this study’s results, more offices are inspired to create policies, protocols, and workshops.

This research project does not exist in order to shame any specific institutions. Rather, this project seeks to encourage universities to create policies and protocols in order to support their scholars who are doing media work and who may experience harassment. It is our wish that Media Relations Offices across Canada can establish a set of guidelines, resources, and policies, which can be customized on the needs of each university and scholar. The end of this report has suggestions for policies, protocols, and workshops.

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