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French journalists suspended over alleged cyberbullying

Some members of a Facebook group named "League of LOL" allegedly harassed other web users with sexist, homophobic and racist insults, mostly between 2009 and 2012.

PARIS — At least five French male journalists have been suspended for allegedly coordinating the online harassment of others through a private Facebook group as a wave of indignation at their actions roils the country.

The French newspaper Liberation and cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles announced this week they have suspended four journalists working for them, 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 his job.

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 having cyberbullied them.

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 says "I've created a monster that went out of control." He has been suspended by Liberation.

Glad wrote that he now feels "now horrified to see one of my tweets from 2013 where I joked about rape culture. I am ashamed."

David Doucet, the editor in chief of Les Inrockuptibles' website, acknowledged on his Twitter account of being the author of two prank phone calls to a science video maker, Florence Porcel.

Porcel says she was the target of a pornographic photomontage 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 by tweets and photomontages from the group mocking their ethnic backgrounds, physical appearances or their political and feminist opinions.