Online Abuse Defense Training Program
PEN America works closely with media organizations, publishers, universities, professional associations, and other institutions to develop policies, protocols, and resources to better protect and support those facing online abuse. We also offer a robust training program to equip writers, journalists, artists, academics, and activists with strategies and resources to protect themselves and one another. While there are no easy answers, open conversations about the impact of online abuse and how to fight back can empower writers and journalists to remain online and continue exercising their free expression rights.
If you are interested in partnering with us, please contact Viktorya Vilk, PEN America’s Program Director of Digital Safety and Free Expression, at [email protected].
Trainings and Workshops
Online Abuse Self-Defense Training
This session equips writers and journalists, as well as their allies and employers, with practical tools and strategies to defend against online abuse. Taking a holistic approach to digital safety, we’ll talk about how to prepare, respond, take care of yourself, and support others.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Bolster Your Digital Safety: An Anti-Hacking, Anti-Doxing Workshop
In partnership with Freedom of the Press Foundation
Learn to better protect yourself from impersonation, hacking, and doxing (the publishing of private info). With your devices in hand, join PEN America and Freedom of the Press Foundation for an interactive workshop where we’ll teach you how to audit your social media accounts, tighten your privacy settings, and track your personal information online so you can maintain the public profile you need to do your job.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Bystander Intervention Training: What to Do When you See Online Abuse
In partnership with Hollaback!
Abusive trolls are joining forces to disproportionately target writers and journalists —especially those who identify as women, LGBTQ+, or POC—to intimidate, discredit, and silence. Each and every one of us can be an ally. Join PEN America and Hollaback! for this interactive training, where we’ll give you the tools you need to intervene safely and effectively when you witness online abuse using Hollaback!’s 5 D’s of Bystander Intervention.
Duration: 1 hour
Employer Best Practices Workshop: Supporting Staff and Freelancers Facing Online Abuse
Most publishers and newsrooms have staff and freelancers who are routinely subjected to hate and harassment online. This directly undermines efforts to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment. In this session, organizational leadership joins PEN America to map out concrete strategies for how to better protect and support staff and freelancers in preparing for, responding to, and mitigating the damage of online abuse.
Duration: 1-2 hours, with consultation on policies, protocols, etc. as necessary
Fees: Each session is $1500. All fees are funneled back into our Online Abuse Defense Program to subsidize support for smaller news outlets and journalism associations. We will work with you and your organization to ensure that fees are never a barrier to access training and support.
Impact & Reach
We have conducted 50+ trainings and workshops for media organizations, publishers, universities, and professional associations across the United States and increasingly internationally, reaching over 10,000 writers, journalists, editors, newsroom leaders, publishers, activists, academics, and lawyers, among others.
70 Faces Media/Jewish Telegraphic Agency
The Boston Globe
Columbia Earth Institute
Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
The Dallas Morning News
Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute
International Press Institute
Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS)
National Press Club Journalism Institute
Online News Association
The Orange County Register
Report for America
San Diego Union Tribune
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
WAMU American University
Women in Journalism
Writers Guild of America East
“You got us thinking about these issues in new and more ambitious ways. You were engaging in your presentations with the broader staff. You showed them that we can be proactive. It’s an overused phrase, but you empowered everyone. You also made management feel more comfortable by making us aware that there are no easy answers or solutions. That alone propelled us to do more work on this—far more. We’ve been engaged ever since you left, and we cite your work and role often. In short, thank you.”
—Brian McGrory, Editor-in-Chief, The Boston Globe
“As a journalist who sometimes writes about sensitive topics, online harassment has become part of the job. But that doesn’t mean it’s normal. PEN America’s training gave me the tools and resources I need to mitigate and manage this ongoing problem, even as a freelancer. Online harassment discourages reporters, journalists, and writers from sharing their stories—it censors us because of the emotional and mental labor it adds to the job. I’m grateful for PEN’s acknowledgment of this issue so we writers feel more empowered to do what we do.”
—Kristin Wong, Journalist, Authors Guild
“PEN America’s online harassment defense training helped us think about how to prepare for harassment and how to better respond when it happens. The training made us rethink some of our policies and approaches. One of the most useful parts was the chance for staff to hear their colleagues’ experiences and share their strategies and tips. In addition, the Online Harassment Field Manual is an excellent resource for both staff and freelancers.”
—Megan Wiegand, Managing Editor, Slate Magazine
“Online abuse is a very real issue in the journalism field today, and we need to be proactive in preparing women, who are disproportionately targeted. The training PEN America provided was thorough and thoughtful, and highly relevant. The trainers brought a compassionate and gentle approach to a difficult topic that seemed to put students at ease.”
—Willow Bay, Dean, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
“I wanted to quickly email to say: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Not only have you all given free trainings for really important skills, but this training in particular will be so incredibly helpful after several libraries in my system were hit with intense anti-LGBTQ+ trolls on social media last year. This escalated to stalking and harassment. I have several librarian friends that I’ve forwarded this to who will really value it.”
“I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you for such a wonderful seminar! I’ve learned so much and will make the necessary changes immediately. After my piece came out last year, I had such a terrible storm for three days—it was really traumatizing. I won’t let it silence me, but I do live in fear of it happening again. Your seminar absolutely helped strengthen my resolve to get back out there.”
—Anonymous, Reporter, Journalism & Women Symposium