Rising numbers of online attacks against journalists have been documented globally. Female, minority reporters and journalists covering issues that are right-wing identity anchors have been primary targets. Silvio Waisbord argues that this trend reflects growing forms of mob censorship linked to the demonization of journalists and the press by populist leaders. Whereas anti-press violence has historically reflected top-down authoritarianism and the weakness of the state to safeguard press and speech rights, online harassment of reporters attests to bottom-up, citizen vigilantism aimed at disciplining journalism. Effective responses are hard amid the proliferation of digital hate speech.
Silvio Waisbord is Professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. He is the author and editor of sixteen books, including more recently Communication: A Post-Discipline (Polity, 2019) and Routledge Companion to Media and Scandals (edited with Howard Tumber, Routledge, 2019), and journal articles, book chapters, and newspaper columns on journalism, politics, and social change. His forthcoming book is A Communication Manifesto (Polity). He is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Communication and the International Journal of Press/Politics. He has lectured and worked in more than 30 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. He is a Fellow of the International Communication Association. He has served on the Advisory Board of the Latin American program of Open Society Foundations. He holds a Licenciatura in sociology from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, San Diego.