This subject has come up quite a bit recently, as a number of my friends on Twitter have become the target of online harassment for various reasons—for being activists, for being outspoken, for being themselves. It’s a very sad thing to watch someone’s resolve and passion get worn down by cyber-bullying, especially when the issues they’re speaking out about are so very important and salient.
In case this ever happens to you, here are some steps for tackling online harassment and keeping yourself safe. If you guys like this or find it helpful, I’d love to do a follow-up piece on how to mentally handle online bullying and keep doing what you do, despite the haters. (Because seriously, screw the haters!)
1. Screenshot and record all incidents that occur.
The moment online harassment occurs, take screenshots and save them with the time it happened. Keep track of every interaction with the harasser and keep it as evidence, because you never know where a situation may lead.
2. Own your identity.
Especially if someone is trying to impersonate or shame you online, claiming your own identity on social media platforms allows you to control what appears about you online—and combats anyone pretending to be you.
If someone creates a false profile of you online, immediately report the impersonator’s profile to the social media service provider. Alert friends, family, and other contacts to not accept any requests from the impersonator’s account.
3. Remove any sensitive information.
In case an online harasser decides to take their attacks offline, be sure to take down any sensitive information about yourself or your family, including: your address, phone number, location, and personal email address.
4. Disable locations and check-ins on your mobile device.
Don’t check in anywhere using your mobile device, and be sure to disable location tracking on any applications you use. A cyber stalker can track your movement and daily habits using this kind of publicly-available information, allowing them to predict where you might be and when.
5. Report harassment to your local police department.
Many small police departments don’t have online divisions, but some do. File a police report about the harassment and provide all evidence regarding your interactions with the harasser. In addition, file a case with the FBI to put it on the record. This can help anyone else who is harassed by this individual in the future.
6. Do not engage your harasser.
Most harassment occurs because it gets attention from the recipient. Your harasser wants a response from you. The best way to fight online harassment is to not give the harasser what he or she wants.
I love you all! Please stay safe out on that world wide web!