Online abuse of female charity leaders report revealed

The joint report by Social CEOs and Acevo reveals the mental health challenges faced by charity bosses targeted by online trolls.

Joe Lepper | 8th Nov 19
Image of a young woman on her phone, representing social media and mental health currently the target for online abuse

Female charity bosses have revealed the “shocking” impact of online abuse they have received from trolls.

They detail how they have experienced, personal, targeted abuse, which had forced them to limit what they say and do online.

The online trolling had left the CEOs, surveyed by Social CEOs and ACEVO, with feelings of isolation, stress, anxiety and feeling personally attacked.

One charity CEO responding to the survey described how trolling had left them feeling suicidal.

Social CEOs and ACEVO carried out the research after conversations with charity bosses about trolling they had experienced.

This highlighted how women experience “particularly challenging trolling, which can include misogynistic abuse”, says their report.

The survey took place in August and September and gathered 27 detailed responses from charity bosses.

Of those responding almost half (48 per cent) said they have been trolled, 15 per cent said they weren’t sure if they had been and 37 per cent said they hadn’t fallen victim to trolling.

Often they have been targeted because of the causes of the charity they lead, the survey found.

“On Twitter, when I use the hashtag feminism, or when I talk about why it is important to empower women, I get random tweets attacking me and my ideological position. There have been quite a few and I have just chosen to ignore,” said one charity boss surveyed.

Another said: “An anonymous person started sending frequent and abusive tweets to me and a few other people blaming us, particularly me, for child deaths. This was tangentially related to a job I left over a year ago.

“Other anonymous accounts joined in but I suspect they were the same person. When it started to make me feel scared I blocked them. But didn’t want to as I felt I should be aware of what was being said.”

Sexist and mysoginistic trolling

Half of those who experienced trolling said it was sexist or mysoginistic. One in four (42 per cent) said the found the action of trolls disturbing and 10 per cent said it had a major impact on them, such as affecting their mental health.

Charity bosses surveyed want to see better support from social media companies and funders to tackle trolls. Legal advice, support from the police and the wider media are also being called for.

Roundtable discussion planned

Charity Digital Trust has organised a roundtable to discuss in depth what support CEOs need.

Charity Digital Chief Executive Jonathan Chevallier said: “I was really shocked when I saw the survey results.  Trolling isn’t just a terrible thing to do to another human being it also damages the important causes those charity leaders are supporting.

“As a sector we need to respond to this issue vigorously and that’s why we’re running a round table to discuss them further.”