The hell of the web

By Audrey SomnardLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to French for original article

The social network jungle is particularly cruel to women. Hordes of haters attack those who take up too much space and dare to express their ideas. Luxembourg is not exempt from this worldwide phenomenon.

Hate speech, insults, threats and harassment are becoming a habit on the web, where ordinary people are transformed into bullies with no manners, and above all no limits. Journalists, politicians, intellectuals and influencers are targeted on the networks and scrutinised with each of their posts. This is what happened to Florence Hainaut and Myriam Leroy, two independent Belgian journalists, who had to face a wave of digital hatred against them. Attacks that have left their mark: "I used to present a political programme on Sunday evenings (Les décodeurs, editor's note). I didn't immediately identify the phenomenon, but I was constantly harassed after each programme", said Florence Hainaut, who ended up leaving RTBF, where she felt she received no support.

The two young women have made a documentary from their experience entitled Sale Pute (dirty whore), a deliberately provocative title that is only the tip of an iceberg of insults and threats that women receive on the web. They were both present at the screening of their documentary in early December in Neimënster, organised by the Pierre Werner Institute. "It's not a film about cyberbullying, it's about misogyny", Florence Hainaut said in the introduction. For the platforms, hate speech is profitable: "Unfortunately, it's their business model. Hateful content generates more engagement, so that's what the algorithms pick up on and put forward on our news feeds. We thought it was cat videos that generated clicks, but not at all", explains Myriam Leroy.

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