IWMF Ela Stapley

The arrival of social media led to opportunities for women journalists to share their work widely and to connect with new audiences, but it also made them more vulnerable to online abuse. While building their brand online, they inadvertently shared a significant amount of personal data about themselves. This data is now being used by online abusers to harass them and prevent them from doing their work. While there is an important role for media outlets to play in protecting staff, journalists can also take steps to secure their information online.

Prevention is key when it comes to protecting yourself against an online attack. The more you can do in advance to secure your information, the safer you will be. Here are my top five tips for better protecting yourself online.

Tip 1: Know what data is best kept offline

Some forms of data are best kept private. This includes information that can be used to verify your identity, such as your date of birth. Other data that is best kept offline include personal contact details, such as your phone number, as well as location information, including your home address. 

Tip 2: Look yourself up online

Know what the internet says about you by doing an online search for your name and other personal data, such as your address. Use different search engines, not just Google, to obtain different results. Check phone and video results, too.

Tip 3: Sign up to get your data removed from databroker sites

Your personal data is likely being collected by databroker sites where online abusers can pay to obtain your data. Subscription services such as Abine Delete Me will remove your data from these sites.

Tip 4: Secure your accounts

Protect against hacking by turning on two-factor authentication and ensuring you have long, complex passwords which are different on each account. Use a password manager such as 1password to generate and store unique passwords. 

Tip 5: Speak with family and friends

Ensure your family and friends know what data you are happy having shared online and what data you want kept private.

— Ela Stapley, IWMF Digital Security Advisor


 In 30 seconds:Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security for accounts. It is best to turn 2FA on for all accounts where possible. An app or security key are more secure options than SMS.
In 5 minutes:

Review the content you have online by looking up your name on all search engines and checking what can be publicly seen on your social media accounts. Take note of all information that makes you vulnerable to an attack.


  • Best practices for digital security change every day. Attackers are always finding new ways to harass, and we find new ways to respond. Sign up for newsletters about digital safety, technology and other related news. 
  • Review self-guided courses for keeping your personal information safe online. 
    • Know your trolls helps journalists identify the abuse they are receiving online and who may be behind it as well as strategies that may help journalists to be better prepared.
    • Keep it private provides journalists with practical tips on how to better protect themselves and their families.
    • Digital Safety Snacks is a collaboration between IWMF, PEN America and ONA that covers doxing, hacking, secure communications and security settings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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