At least five French male journalists have been suspended for allegedly co-ordinating the online harassment of others through a private Facebook group, amid a wave of anger over their actions.
French newspaper Liberation and cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles announced they have suspended four journalists, including the creator of the “League of LOL” group that included Parisian journalists, publicists and communication designers.
At least three other members of the group have been suspended by their employers and another has quit.
Liberation last week reported that some members of the group allegedly harassed other web users with sexist, homophobic and racist insults, mostly between 2009 and 2012.
The group has been dubbed a “boys club” by French media in reference to its apparent macho culture.
In recent days, several people including some female journalists have publicly accused group members of cyberbullying.
The publishing director of Liberation, Laurent Joffrin, said in a column that the “shameful” allegations made him nauseous.
He denounced “harassment, insults, salacious pranks – all kind of digital aggressions”.
According to Liberation, the Facebook group had about 30 members, an overwhelming majority of them men.
Journalist Vincent Glad, who began the group in 2009, said he “owes apologies” to all those who have been harassed.
In a text on his Twitter account he said: “I’ve created a monster that went out of control.”
He has been suspended by Liberation.
Mr Glad wrote that he now feels “horrified to see one of my tweets from 2013 where I joked about rape culture. I am ashamed”.
David Doucet, editor in chief of Les Inrockuptibles’ website, acknowledged on his Twitter account that he was the author of two prank phone calls to a science video maker, Florence Porcel.
Ms Porcel says she was the target of a pornographic photo montage and a phone call in which group members made her believe they were prominent TV producers offering her a job, before posting the recording online to humiliate her.
Other Twitter users said they had been repeatedly insulted with tweets and photo montages from the group mocking their ethnic backgrounds, physical appearances or political and feminist opinions.