At least three senior French journalists have been suspended for participating in a closed Facebook group, populated predominantly by male journalists, that allegedly conspired to humiliate women by anonymously taunting them on social media with rape jokes and photoshopped pornographic images. France’s Liberation newspaper suspended their online editor Alexandre Hervaud and journalist Vincent Glad, the founder of Facebook group “League of LOL,” after it was revealed by the newspaper’s own CheckNews fact-checking unit that the group had been bullying women online for nearly a decade.
“Shameful. The treatment inflicted on numerous young women or young men by a certain informal group known as ‘League of LOL’ makes you feel sick. Harassment, insults, cruel hoaxes, a whole array of digital attacks were used by this group,” wrote Liberation’s Editor-in-Chief Laurent Joffrin in an editorial on Tuesday.
Among those to speak out about being targeted was filmmaker Florence Procel, who said a man masqueraded as the editor of a prominent news program to interview her for a non-existent job. After the man posted edited audio of the conversation online, she wrote, “I cried of shame for three days.” Journalists Nora Bouazzouni, Lucile Bellan, and podcast Mélanie Wanga have also said they were targeted by members by the so-called “League.”
David Doucet, the editor of magazine Les Inrockuptibles, has since admitted that he was the man responsible for the fake interview with Procel. In an apology posted to Twitter, he said that he had been part of the condemned Facebook group for two years.
“In the small world that was Twitter then, I saw that certain people were being regularly targeted but I had no idea of the scale and the trauma suffered,” he wrote. “I was cowardly and too happy to be a part of this band that the Twittersphere at the time admired to intervene.”
In his own apology, Glad wrote that he founded the group “not to harass women” but “only to have fun.”
“But very quickly,” he acknowledged, “our way of having fun became very problematic and we didn’t realize.”