Richard Gutjahr talks online harassment, civil courage, and digital empathy | Global Media Forum | DW | 04.04.2018
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Richard Gutjahr talks online harassment, civil courage, and digital empathy

German journalist Richard Gutjahr has long fought back against online harassment. He shares his lessons learned with DW.

Richard Gutjahr is a German journalist who covered the terror attacks in Nice and Munich in 2016 using mobile reporting. In the wake of his coverage, he faced brutal harassment online that targeted himself and his family. Here he shares a few of his lessons learned.

How would you describe your experience with online hate speech and harassment? 

The best way to describe it as a self-feeding monster that doesn’t go away just by ignoring it. It grows stronger every day and benefits from the inherent mechanics of the leading social media platforms.

How can social networks do better to put a stop to online harassment? Conversely, how would you respond to critics who say that laws like Germany’s NetzDG promote censorship? 

They have to acknowledge that they have a huge responsibility as platform providers. They created an environment that is built on attention, which benefits hate and lies. Regarding the NetzDG, I agree. The problem is, politics have not caught up with the digital revolution and outsourced jurisdiction to the platforms, which is crazy. 

How do we see online harassment target those who are already vulnerable in society? What measures can be taken to protect those with few resources from online harassment?  

There is no silver bullet to kill the beast. The solution is as diverse as the web. Is it politics? Yes. Is it the tech-companies? Of course. The truth is: it’s all of us, each and every single individual using the web. A first step would be to teach civil courage, compassion, (digital) empathy. 

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