Tuesday, April 2, 2019

LOL League: Harassment of Women by Journalists (2009-13)

Ethics Case Controversy

LOL League creator: Vincent Glad
The LOL League, or "Ligue du LOL" is a group of French journalists who used their power in the media to humiliate and harass women in France from 2009 to 2013, and stifle the growth of their careers. The group was created on Facebook by journalist Vincent Glad, who worked for Libération, as a place where well-established men in the media industry could make jokes and have a laugh (Sollety). Other notable members include David Doucet, who worked as web editor-in-chief for Les Inrockuptibles, and his assistant, François Luc-Doyez. Les Inrockuptibles is a high-profile music and cultural magazine, and Libération is a daily newspaper in France. The group was treated as a "gentleman's club" and over the years, as the membership count grew, so did the severity of jokes and insults that were passed around. Members of the group would go as far as creating false, pornographic photo montages to humiliate the journalists online and joke about differences in ethnicities or physical appearances. Their actions grew to the point where their sole intention was to make a joke out of others in the industry, without regard for the effects their actions had and how others would be affected, both in the short-term and long-term. In the short-term, many of the women suffered from emotional distress and humiliation; however, long-term effects included a stifling of careers and difficulty to trust members in the media industry. 

Out of all the different stories of harassment that have arisen from this case, one truly stands out among all the rest. In this scenario, Doucet, Doyez, and other members of the group published a phone interview online for a job position that didn't exist (NBC News). At the time, they did this to humiliate the interviewee, Florence Porcel, whom is a renowned French columnist and avid video-producer for topics related to Space and Mars. She had the impression that she was being interviewed by prominent TV producers, for a position to help further her career. Not only did the group try to stifle Ms. Porcel's career by posting the interview online, but it also caused her great embarrassment and emotional damage moving forward. After it was posted online, Florence Porcel referenced that she sat in isolation for days because she didn't have the courage to be in public and cried from shame, humiliation, and fear during that time (BBC News). Additionally, she was included in one of the many pornographic photomontages that group produced publicly. She is one of the many victims who have shared their stories about the harassment and humiliation they've received from the LOL League.

Once news broke about these events, some French media companies took matters into their own hands by firing anyone they employed, that they knew were involved with the group. Since then, Glad, Doucet, and Doyez are among only a few of the members who have been fired so far. Since then, the issue has been compared to the recent events of the #MeToo movement. French media is still a male-dominant industry, so the country as a whole is skeptical about conforming to the ideas behind the movement, but there are indications that the country is slowly moving toward a more understanding approach and acceptance of the situation. In January 2019 alone, French police received a significant increase in the reports of sexual crimes because victims are more willing to speak out since the movement has taken place. Overall, the recent actions of the LOL League provide a cause for concern about the state of the media in France and lack of representation and power for the women in it.


The first group of stakeholders are members of the LOL League, specifically Glad, Doucet, and Doyez. The second group of stakeholders is the French media and media companies like, Libération newspaper, Les Inrockuptibles, and Publicis Groupe, which is one of the world's largest
David Doucet is responsible for the fake phone interview.
communications group. Since they are responsible for employing some of the members of the LOL League, they suffer the effects of their actions. Lastly, the list of women who were harassed are stakeholders, which include victims like, Florence Porcel, Daria Marx, and Léa Lejeune. Marx and Lejeune are both prominent, feminist bloggers in France.


The theory of Individualism was developed by economist Milton Friedman, who believed the primary goals of a business were to maximize profits for the owners, but doing so within the constraints of the law. Philosopher Tibor Machan later advocated for a more liberal approach to that of Friedman's, and said that owners should be able to spend money and resources in ways that will detract from profits, and not maximize them for the owners of the business (Salazar 17). For this case, members of the group weren't doing anything wrong in an attempt to maximize their own profits, but they still violated Individualism because their actions could decrease the profits of the companies they worked for, and some of their actions still acted outside of the law. The actions of the group would reflect poorly on the companies that employed them, which means profits could be hurt if they were to lose business. Businesses will lose customers if it appears they support the actions that are against what their customers believe to be ethical or the right thing. That's the type of message businesses would be sending if they kept members of the LOL League employed. Thus, companies were forced into a dilemma because they'd be forced to fire highly-touted members of he industry, or risk losing business. Additionally, the defamation of the journalists by members of the group is considered a civil tort, which means its against the law. Anyone who perpetrated the defamation would thus violate Individualism, because their actions would've been deemed outside the constraints of the law. In all, the group of male journalists did not conform to Individualism, and their actions failed to coincide with the Individualistic views of Friedman.


Florence Porcel was the victim of the fake interview.
Utilitarianism was first developed by Jeremy Bentham, before being popularized by John Stuart Mill, and focuses on maximizing happiness for all parties. Happiness and pleasure are the only thing of intrinsic value, which means we ought to maximize the happiness and pleasure in all things capable of feeling and doing so without impartiality about it. Based on John Stuart Mill's view on Utilitarianism, we should look to maximize happiness and pleasure, in all beings capable of feeling it, and do so impartially. This means we look to not only maximize happiness and limit pain for humans, but also for animals (Salazar 20). We do this because if happiness is valuable, that means there is no moral difference between the happiness each of us experiences, so we should maximize it for the greatest number of people, including ourselves. The LOL League violated the theory of Utilitarianism and its basic ethics, by harassing the female journalists and humiliating them through the phone interviews and photoshopped images. In response to the treatment she received, Daria Marx stated, " I would wake up at night to see if the harassment had stopped, I went to bed with insults, and I woke up with 40 new foul mentions," (Breeden). This is just one of the many cases where the group acted in a hateful and threatening manner, to the point where this blogger feared for her personal well-being. Their actions created further issues for the stakeholders in this situation and failed to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people. No business wants to be forced to fix social issues created by the unethical actions of its employees, especially if it affects their perception by the community.  Due to the actions of the LOL League, they do not conform to Utilitarianism and they failed to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people, which includes both the victimized journalists and the companies they worked for.


Kantian theory has four basic principles: (1) act rationally, and don't act inconsistently with your own actions or consider yourself as exempt from the rules; (2) allow people to make rational decisions, and help them to do so; (3) respect people, their autonomy, and individual differences and needs; and lastly, (4) be motivated by Good Will, and seek to do the right thing because it is right. Actions out of Good Will are right (rational) and have the right motivation, in other words, you have the correct motivations for your actions. For Kantian theory, decisions must also obey the Formula of Humanity. For the Formula of Humanity, you must treat someone as an end and never just as a means. In the case of the LOL League, they violated Kantian theory. The group acted irrationally by harassing the women, and considered themselves exempt from the rules by treating them so poorly. Not only were these actions the opposite of Good Will, but they also believed they were above the female journalists and acted like it. This being said, the men also publicly mocked women on Twitter, based on their differences in ethnicities or political stance, which violates the third principle of respecting people, their autonomy, and individual differences. Not to mention, these actions violated the Formula of Humanity, since these women were used as means for their jokes, without regard for how they would be affected in the end. The actions of the LOL League and the way they treated female journalists in no way conforms to the theory of Kantianism. The members were in no way motivated by intentions of Good Will and made irrational decisions when it came to publicly harassing and humiliating others within the media industry, for their enjoyment.

Virtue Theory

Aristotle developed this theory and believed that rationality is what differentiates characteristics of people; therefore, people must be rational in order to live a life that is virtuous. Virtue Theory focuses on four characteristics that must be met in order for a business to be considered ethical. The four virtues are: courage, honesty, temperance/self-control, and justice/fairness (Salazar 23). Courage is a characteristic that represents the willingness to stand for the right ideas and actions. The LOL League did not act in a courageous way because their actions promoted disrespect and hate, which resulted in harm and emotional distress to many women in the media industry. Members of the league also wouldn't be considered honest, because of the way they portrayed themselves during their time in the group. Not only did many of the members use pseudonyms to protect their identities online, but they hid their participation in the group from the companies they worked for. They would've been punished sooner if their actions were made known to the businesses when they first started in 2009, but they were dishonest and kept everything secret in the Facebook group. The source for this dishonesty is attributed to the vice of selfishness (Salazar 23). The group made a joke out of the journalists, and in doing so, they acted selfishly without thinking of the effect they'd have on the lives of those journalists. The group didn't follow the virtue of temperance, because they didn't hold any realistic expectations or desires. The group was created as a place for people to pass jokes back and forth, but it wasn't intended to turn into the "monster it had become" (NBC News), as Vincent Glad put it, and reach the point where its members were harassing people on the daily. Lastly, the LOL League was not just or fair toward the female journalists because of the way they treated them; the journalists were treated as if they were less than the members in the group. This being said, the LOL League and its members didn't comply with Virtue Theory.

Justified Ethics Evaluation

In my opinion, the actions of the LOL League and its members were unethical and should never have occurred in the first place. The group should never have been created and that would've save everyone involved a lot of trouble. Vincent Glad had the intentions of a friendly, online group where men in the industry could converse and joke around, so that's what he created on Facebook. Yet, he should've shut it down once it began to grow into something that he didn't have the intentions of creating. Instead of dissolving the group when it started to get into trouble, he used his position to further the actions of the LOL League, which was the unethical thing to do. Additionally, members of the league didn't stop to think what would happen if they were caught publicly harassing the women online, and how that would affect both their careers and the companies they worked for. Overall, if the group had never been started in the first place the world would've been better off, because the female journalists wouldn't have been targeted in the first place and the French media wouldn't look as bad.

Company Action Plan

The current issue at hand is to punish all of those who were a part of the group and then dissolve it to prevent the content the group created to be spread even further across the internet. Had the group never been created in the first place, they wouldn't have this issue and the media companies wouldn't have their images sullied by this event. Once news broke, Vincent Glad and David Doucet made the right decision to apologize for everything they had done personally through their participation in the group, but that wasn't enough. Only a few of the members have been punished and many have appeared to get off free from the things they did as members of the group. The first thing I would do, before removing the group from Facebook and any other social media accounts connected to the group, is record down all of its existing members. This way they can be interviewed and held accountable for their actions within the LOL League. All of those who were targeted by the group and dealt with defamation have suffered for long enough, so there's no reason to leave any of the existing content online for any longer.

Moving forward, there are certainly procedures I would take to ensure that nothing like this happens again. Whenever someone is hired in the media industry, companies need to reinforced the punishment they would hand down to their employees if they are caught participating in similar groups. They need to develop a zero-tolerance policy, that can be written into contract for when employees are hired, for this kind of behavior and punish both new and existing employees accordingly when it happens. Firing anyone who has participated in similar groups sends the message that there is zero tolerance for that behavior. They would also ask interviewees if they have previously participated in similar groups, because if they have, then hiring them could send the public the wrong image and make it seem like they support that type of behavior. Once preventative steps are taken then the company can look at remarketing for the future. Companies will have to issue apologies to all parties who were negatively affected by the actions. Doing so will help customers understand they are sorry for the actions of their employees and give the sense that they put customers first. This is both profitable and ethical because it will help the media companies to retain their customers and continue doing business in the future.

Written by,
C. Magnuson

Associated Press. “French Journalists Suspended over Alleged Cyberbullying.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 12 Feb. 2019, www.nbcnews.com/news/world/french-journalists-suspended-over-alleged-cyberbullying-n970456.

 Breeden, Aurelien. “Facebook Group of French Journalists Harassed Women for Years.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/world/europe/la-ligue-du-lol-sexual-harassment.html.

 Corbet, Sylvie. “French Journalists Suspended Over Alleged Cyberbullying.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 12 Feb. 2019, www.abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/french-journalists-suspended-alleged-cyberbullying-61018135.

 “Ligue Du LOL: Secret Group of French Journalists Targeted Women.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Feb. 2019, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47206248.

 Salazar, Heather. The Business Ethics Case Manual: The Authoritative Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding and Improving the Ethics of Any Business. Print.

 Solletty, Marion. “French Media Faces Hard Truths after #MeToo Moment.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 18 Feb. 2019, www.politico.eu/article/french-media-gender-equality-faces-hard-truths-after-metoo-moment/.

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