Michelle Ferrier: She’s Bustin’ Online Trolls

June 8 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: The State of the Internet

Believe it or not, in 1995, a writer for Newsweek predicted the internet would fail. Crazy, right? He assumed electronic publishing would be a chore, if not altogether impossible. (I wonder what he would think about being able to read and listen to a newsletter about women in business on any device of our choosing.) Some more of his wrong predictions: Internet shopping won’t take off, the World Wide Web will make us less connected and there’s no way students will enjoy online classes. We’ve all had grandiose opinions about this, that and the other, resolute in our correctness, and then been totally wrong. Today, own up to it. Heck, it can’t be any worse than this guy’s completely inaccurate forecast about the internet!


The reason we’re discussing the progression of the internet is because, although it has become an integral part of our daily activities, the law and some users don’t necessarily take the power of the internet as seriously as they should. It’s no longer just cat videos and instant messaging. In fact, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the International News Safety Institute polled female journalists, and what they discovered was heartbreaking: Nearly two-thirds of women journalists polled have experienced some form of abuse, threats or intimidation in relation to their work. About 25 percent of those threats were written, verbal and/or physical, and included threats to their friends and family.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Michelle Ferrier, Founder of Troll-Busters

Thankfully, today’s Woman to Watch is providing a little online pest control for women writers. While the internet seems to be omnipresent these days, our hope is that with empowered women taking a stand, this type of harassment will soon come to an end. Michelle Ferrier is one such zealous woman fighting cyberharrassment that affects strong women voices online. She started the anti-bullying website and women’s-support project Troll-Busters—and its mission is to do just that: thwart the so-called online trolls who harass, threaten and attack female journalists, bloggers and publishers.

A longtime lauded journalist herself, Michelle came up with the idea for Troll-Busters after surviving her own experience with harassment. As an African-American columnist for a Florida newspaper, she was sent racist hate mail threatening violence for several years. Like many who are harassed in such a manner, finding the perpetrators proves nearly impossible, as they are typically anonymous. This leaves law enforcement with few solutions. The terrifying experience even forced Michelle to pack up and move to a different state. But once she realized trolls and bullies exist everywhere, she decided to stop running and start fighting.

Now, as an associate professor of journalism and the force behind Troll-Busters, Michelle is committed to protecting women with a voice. Women writers and journalists who experience online harassment, whether it’s via social-media sites or posts to their own publications’ websites, can report the bullying to Troll-Busters.

Troll-Busters helps victims by showing them how to lock down their personal information online, and best yet, counters bullies’ hate with support, posting an array of positive messages, endorsements and memes on victims’ online feeds. The service is so impactful that Troll-Busters won a top prize from Google at the International Women’s Media Foundation hackathon due to its unique approach, and was later awarded $35,000 in development funds from the Knight Prototype Fund.

Thank you, Michelle, for boldly standing up to trolls, cyberbullies and other online pests, and making the internet a safer place for women.


Emboldened by Michelle Ferrier’s important work, I’ll leave you today with a heartening quote from suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She said:

“The best protection any woman can have … is courage.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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