Several well-known French journalists faced suspension recently, and one could face termination over their participation in an alleged secret Facebook group which encouraged online harassment of women.
The said private group was established in 2009 and primarily called itself as “LOL League” which, of course, composed of men. Last week, the French newspaper Liberationexposed the wrongdoings of its members. According to CNN, members of the group have admitted that its main subjects were women and tried to set them up in situations which often led to scandal and shameful acts.
One example is calling a woman and offering her a fake job then, later on, published the recording publicly.
The scandal has drawn comparisons in the media to the #MeToo movement which exposed maltreatment by powerful men in the industry, and also resembled the organized online harassment of female video game developers during #Gamergate. The victims accused the LOL League of creating harassment campaigns and publicly shared it on any social media sites which will eventually generate a stream of violent messages from other people.
SOS Racisme, France’s leading anti-racism body openly urged the Paris prosecutor to have a preliminary investigation. Liberation started an internal investigation and suspended two journalists for participating in the harassment including LOL League founder Vincent Glad who apologized for initially creating the group to ‘only have fun.’ He is a regular freelancer for the newspaper and made a mistake when he allowed such group to ruin his career.
While French culture magazine, Les Inrockuptibles announced that it would fire web editor David Doucet after taking accountability for the fake job pun. Christophe Carron, editor-in-chief of State’s French edition, also expressed regret for his participation but denied the allegation of harassing women. Although he will still keep his job, his deputy will supervise coverage of the LOL League scandal.
The victims of these people shared their experiences on Twitter. Florence Porcel, a video journalist, said she was the victim of job offer hoax and cried from humiliation after the group publicly published the recording on Twitter. Other targets such as Activist Daria Marx, wrote details of bullies on her blog post while tech reporter Lea Lejeune told CNN, she had received apologies from five members but still felt the torrent of abuse.
The victims’ testimonies posted on Twitter garnered sympathy from several human rights group including Marlene Schiappa, France Minister for gender equality who tweeted a message expressing support “It’s not the internet that’s cruel; it’s what we do with it.”
However, it’s not clear whether the private Facebook group is still active or closed since Facebook (FB) did not give any comment when asked about the issue.