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Staring at the screen, opening that letter full of hate and you can barely breathe. What will it be now? Dick pics? Racial baiting? Death threats?
I’m Michelle Ferrier, the founder of Troll-Busters.com. I’ve been where you are right now. As a former journalist and columnist, I received hate mail and death threats for writing my lifestyle column in the local paper. Here’s a sample of what I would regularly receive during my years as a columnist:
This was one of the manifestos I received as an African-American columnist at a daily newspaper.
The letters became increasingly violent. I went to management. I went to the police. I went to the FBI, CIA. The Committee to Protect Journalists took my case to the Department of Justice. Nothing changed.
But I did. I changed as a person. I became angrier. More wary and withdrawn. I had police patrolling my neighborhood. I gave up and quit my job to protect my family and young children.
Ten years later, I became triggered by Gamergate and the misogynist online attacks against women in 2014. I was angry at Twitter and Facebook. And so I stood up at a hackathon and said “Let’s create something anti-Gamergate,” and TrollBusters was born.
Dr. Michelle Ferrier
Dr. Michelle Ferrier is the founder of TrollBusters.com, a just-in-time rescue service for women writers and journalists experiencing online harassment. She is a digital content architect with 30 years experience in media entrepreneurship and new media technologies. Ferrier is an associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and was named one of the top 20 journalism innovation educators for 2018.
Ferrier is an award-winning columnist and author. She is featured in the Committee to Protect Journalists 2016 edition of Attacks on the Press, where she wrote “Progression of Hate,” a chapter that tells her own story of hate mail attacks and the birth of TrollBusters.com as a solution to new forms of harassment. Ferrier has presented before the United Nations on World Press Freedom Day, as a keynote speaker at the Online News Association and as a panelist at the News Impact Summit hosted by the European Journalism Centre on the growing dangers for women journalists online.
Ferrier is the former president of Journalism That Matters and the creator of the Create or Die series of startup gatherings for media innovation in underserved and underrepresented communities. She is the principal investigator for the Media Deserts Project (www.mediadeserts.com), which uses geographic information system technologies to examine places in the United States where fresh news and information are lacking.
Michelle Ferrier is a scholar and communications consultant around community-based participatory research and media entrepreneurship. Her research interests include digital identity and reputation management and online communities.
Ferrier holds a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida in Texts and Technologies where she developed online communities, online learning and new media storytelling technologies; a master’s degree from the University of Memphis in journalism; and a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.