CFOM Seminar Series Recordings 2023/24


Legal consultant and editor of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, Gill Phillips, discusses current threats to journalists

In the first of the Centre for Freedom of the Media’s (CFOM) online seminar series, legal consultant Gill Phillips talks about existential and practical threats to journalists and journalism including issues surrounding AI, social media and fake news. Gill also discusses legal issues that journalists face including Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, censorship and source protection.

Gill joined the BBC from private practice in 1987. She dealt with all the pre- and post- transmission aspects of broadcasting, including advising programme departments (both TV and Radio) on a whole range of pre- and post- publication media law-issues including libel, contempt, court-reporting, disclosure of sources, breach of confidence and the Official Secrets Act. She then moved to the The Sun and the News of the World, and later to the Times and Sunday Times dealing with pre-publication issues and post publication complaints and claims. Gill moved to Guardian News & Media as the Director of Editorial Legal in May 2009, where she advised on phone-hacking, Wikileaks, the Leveson Inquiry, the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden and many other data leak and investigative series. She retired as GNM’s Editorial Legal Director in June 2023, and remains as a legal consultant for them. She is a co-editor for the 27th Edition of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, due out in 2024.


Jessica White, Senior Research Analyst at Freedom House, discusses Freedom House’s recent report Reviving News Media in an Embattled Europe

Amid the twin forces of democratic backsliding and digital disruption, news outlets are having to find new ways to sustain and defend independent reporting. This seminar will delve into findings from Freedom House’s most recent report, Reviving News Media in an Embattled Europe. Based on a series of interviews with journalists and media experts in Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Poland, lead researcher Jessica White shines a light on the strategies that independent newsrooms are developing to address issues of financial viability, engage younger and more diverse audiences, promote trust, and defend themselves against threats that undermine and stifle their work. These responses can inform broader policy approaches to reviving news media’s role as a core component of a healthy democracy.

Jessica White leads research for Freedom House’s new stream of work on Media and Democracy, with a focus on Europe. She formerly served as research analyst for Freedom on the Net, Freedom House’s annual survey of internet freedom in 70 countries around the world. Prior to joining Freedom House, Jessica supported international engagement and programming at the Royal Society of Arts in London, the British Embassy in Madrid and the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC. She holds a master’s degree in international development from Sciences Po in Paris.


Senior Research Fellow, Diana Maynard, discusses the development of a dashboard to monitor and understand the online abuse journalists face

Gender-based online violence against women journalists is one of the biggest contemporary threats to press freedom globally. This talk describes a dashboard we are developing for monitoring and exploring relevant social media data, as well as some findings in the form of recently published big data case studies investigating online violence targeted at a number of emblematic women journalists from around the world. In order to conduct this large scale analysis of online abuse, we have developed NLP tools to identify and characterise online abuse from Twitter targeted at specific individuals, with the ultimate aim of developing an “early warning system” to help predict the escalation of online abuse into offline harm and violence, based on indicators from the analysis. The dashboard we have developed provides a rich understanding of abuse towards one or more journalists, but also comparisons between different journalists over time, and indicators of factors such as coordinated abusive behaviour, gaslighting, or potential for escalation to offline harm. Finally, we present a set of indicators we have developed that signify potential escalation of abuse, and some guidelines for monitoring violence against women journalists.

Dr Diana Maynard is a Senior Research Fellow in the Computer Science department at the University of Sheffield, UK. She has a PhD in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and has more than 30 years of experience in the field. Since 2000 she has been one of the key developers of the GATE NLP toolkit, leading work on Sheffield’s open-source multilingual text analysis tools. Her main research interests are in practical, multidisciplinary approaches to text and social media analysis, in a wide range of fields including cultural heritage, human rights, law, journalism, sustainability and the environment, geography, politics, and natural disasters. She is currently working on various projects based around the detection and analysis of online hate speech, including methods for removing bias in Machine Learning, and for early warning detection of abuse escalation.