Craig Newmark Philanthropies Awards PEN America $250,000 To Combat Disinformation and Harassment Online


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Graphic showing differences between (deliberate) disinformation, unintentional misinformation, and hoax according to Wikimedia Research courtesy of Srijankedia under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

This gift will also allow PEN America to expand its continued efforts to fight against disinformation by engaging with digital platforms to identify ways to counter the spread of disinformation while preserving free expression.



This week PEN America announced a $250,000 gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies for its work to combat disinformation and harassment online over the next year. This significant investment will allow the literary and free expression organization to re-energize its work ahead of the 2020 US presidential election cycle.

Through this gift, PEN America will expand its online harassment self-defense trainings for newsrooms, journalism schools, and writers’ associations. The organization will also work closely with major news organizations, including the San Diego Union Tribune and Dallas Morning News, to develop best practices for protecting journalists from online abuse.

How Disinformation Can Be Spread, explanation by U.S. Defense Department (2001) / United States Department of Defense / Public Domain

“During a fraught political moment, we’re especially honored that Craig is doubling down on his contributions to our vital work in promoting truth and transparency and defending journalists and writers from online abuse,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America. “As social platforms and digital spaces explode with vitriol, combating online harassment – and the chill on free expression that it represents – has never been more crucial. We are grateful to Craig Newmark Philanthropies for supporting our efforts to push back against disinformation and help ensure that the American people have the information they need during the upcoming campaign.”

This gift will also allow PEN America to expand its continued efforts to fight against disinformation by:

  • Engaging with digital platforms to identify ways to counter the spread of disinformation while preserving free expression;

  • Organizing an expert convening to spotlight and respond to online disinformation campaigns throughout the 2020 election cycle;

  • Encouraging 2020 Democratic and Republican party platforms to include language on addressing the fight against disinformation;

  • Mobilizing PEN America Members in all 50 states to press candidates and elected officials to reject the use of disinformation; and

  • Advocating for federal legislation that promotes information integrity and digital freedom.

“We face a set of complex challenges ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, especially when it comes to combatting the spread of disinformation and the harassment of journalists online.” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “PEN America’s holistic efforts will help prepare journalists and elected officials to preserve our democracy and elections in this information war.”

In 2017, PEN America surveyed writers and journalists to assess the impact of online abuse. The survey found that, of those who had experienced online harassment, two-thirds reported reacting severely, including refraining from publishing their work, permanently deleting their social media accounts, and/or fearing for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. These findings contributed to the creation of the organization’s Online Harassment Field Manual and online harassment self-defense trainings, which equip writers and journalists with the best available methods and means to protect themselves and their freedom to write. Thanks to this gift from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, PEN America will be able to continue this work.

This post is compiled courtesy of Wikipedia, PEN America, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and the United States Defense Department.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Craig Newmark Philanthropies was created by craigslist founder Craig Newmark to support and connect people and drive broad civic engagement. It works to advance people and grassroots organizations that are getting stuff done in areas that include trustworthy journalism & the information ecosystem, voter protection, gender diversity in technology, and veterans & military families.



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EMPOWERING WRITERS AND JOURNALISTS: PEN America launched “Online Harassment Field Manual” . . . While the content is geared toward writers, much of the advice and techniques are relevant to anyone confronting hostility online.

PEN America nonprofit logo courtesy of Mltellman – under
CC BY-SA 4.0 license.


On Friday PEN America launched its Online Harassment Field Manual, a first-of-its-kind resource to equip and empower writers, journalists, and all those active online with practical tools and tactics to defend against hateful speech and trolling.

Research with more than 230 writers revealed alarming findings that highlight the relevance of the Field Manual and the threat that online harassment poses for free speech: two-thirds of those trolled reported reactions including refraining from publishing their work, deleting social media accounts, and fears for personal safety; over a third avoided certain topics in their writing. Writers were targeted for their viewpoints, but also based on their race, gender, and sexual orientation. Those belonging to marginalized communities or speaking out on injustice faced more egregious forms of online hate.

PEN, Exc. Dir. Suzanne Nossel

“Online harassment poses a clear threat to free expression, as evidenced by the results of our survey,” said PEN America Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel. “When certain voices are muzzled, when people choose not to write about topics that matter, and when they remove themselves from the public debate, everyone loses. As an organization of and for writers, PEN America is especially disturbed by the ways in which online harassment affects their work. Journalists and writers whose web presence is a professional imperative can’t be left defenseless in the face of rampant digital intimidation, provocation, and vitriol when they dare to stick their heads above the parapet.”

The Field Manual offers a one-stop bank of advice, guidance, and resources on cyber-stalking, doxing, hate speech, and other forms of digital vitriol, intended to fortify writers and journalists with the best available methods and means to protect themselves and secure their own freedom to write.

The Field Manual also offers recommendations directed to employers, tech companies, and law enforcement on the parts they need to play to prevent online harassment. While the content is geared toward writers, much of the advice and techniques are relevant to anyone confronting hostility online. Manual highlights include:

  • A number of first-hand accounts of online harassment and their aftermath
  • Step-by-step guides for enhancing cyber security and preventing doxing
  • An online harassment glossary with proposed responses
    Ideas for leveraging online writing communities to combat online harassment
  • Tips for combating hate speech with counterspeech
  • Guidelines for allies and witnesses interested in intervening in online harassment
  • Best practices for employers of writers and journalists to improve institutional support during episodes of online abuse
    Information about online harassment and the law

    “In the digital age, all writers and publishers of online content are vulnerable and susceptible to web attacks,” said PEN America Journalism and Press Freedom Project Manager Laura Macomber. “Those facing online harassment must make an impossible decision: engage and put themselves at risk, or disconnect and miss out on important online discourse. Our goal is to equip writers and their allies—especially those whose livelihoods are at stake—with resources to push back against online hatred and harassment so they can continue to do their jobs.”

The Online Harassment Field Manual launched Saturday in New York City during a panel discussion on combating online hate, which is part of the PEN World Voices Festival. To continue the conversation, PEN America and the National Press Club Journalism Institute will host a panel about journalists fighting back against online harassment on April 27, the day before the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in Washington, D.C.

The Online Harassment Field Manual is available at https://onlineharassmentfieldmanual.pen.org

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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