In America, the Weinstein scandal triggered a wave of sexual harassment allegations, which led to the #Metoo movement. In France, the opinions regarding this movement were more tempered. But France now has its own scandal shaking an entire industry: the Ligue du LOL or League of LOL.
It all started in 2009 with a harmless Facebook group. About thirty young men – journalists, public relations executives, influencers – posting “jokes” about co-workers and peers on a private group. Today, these men are (or were before the scandal) all well-established in the media industry, some in prominent newsrooms, others on prominent websites.
The accusations go beyond dubious jokes posted on a private group. Some members of the League of LOL allegedly behaved in a way that could constitute harassment. They posted comments and photos online, mainly on Twitter. Taken out of context, some comments could be described as harmless. But put together, these abundant comments became offensive and threatening.
The targets were apparently mainly feminists, female journalists, writers of color and gay people. Members of the League of LOL are not only accused of posting racist and sexist comments online, behaving inappropriately in real life. For example, women were allegedly called in for fake job interviews that were subsequently recorded and posted online.
The newspaper Libération revealed this scandal publicly on February 8th but these behaviors were reportedly well-known within the media industry. Until these revelations, nobody had spoken about it because of the influence these men had in the industry. Some of the victims went offline to avoid harassment and others even quit journalism because they could not stand the mistreatment anymore.
Newsrooms have already taken measures in response. Vincent Glad, the founder of the group, was suspended by the newspaper Libération. Inrockuptibles, a major French cultural magazine, suspended the editor-in-chief and his deputy, who were part of the League of LOL. Due to the scandal, it was also revealed that the Huffington Post and Vice had fired five journalists over the last few months because of sexist, racist and homophobic comments allegedly posted on work messaging groups.
This new scandal shows that harassment issues do not spare any industry and can infect any company.
By Laetitia Aria law Clerk BridgehouseLaw LLP