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How to Defend Yourself Online

As soon as you experience online abuse:

Document it

  • 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why and how, if applicable)

  • Number of instances

  • Number of people involved

  • Screenshots

  • Level of severity (see Scale of Severity)

Report it

  • Report it to the digital platform where it occurred (see Social Media Guides)

  • Ask others (family, friends, co-workers) to report it to the digital platform, too

  • Report it to your employer, if relevant

  • Announce publicly that you have reported it

Block the culprit(s)

Stop the abuser from following you and seeing your content (see Social Media Guides)

If you don't consider yourself to be sufficiently tech-savvy or need help with any of these recommendations, ask someone you trust for assistance.

Reporting threats to the police

While it may be useful in some cases for law enforcement to know about and/or follow-up on any serious threats made against you, calling the police is not always a safe option. 

"As an Indigiqueer, Two-Spirit iskwew (woman) who is very active on social media, trolls often come after me spewing violent and hateful messages. Although receiving these messages is never okay, recognizing that I don’t have to respond and that there are avenues to protect my mental and physical wellbeing has been helpful. The “block” feature on Twitter is one of my favorite buttons!"
- Lori Campbell

What if it happens more than once?

  • BLOCK the account(s)
     

  • REACH out to others who are being targeted by the same abuser(s)
     

  • REPORT it to the digital platform where it occurred
     

  • REPORT it to your employer

If you do not feel safe contacting the police, consider asking someone you trust to do this for you. Another option is finding one of the many community-based organizations that are willing to liaise with the police on behalf of others.

Don't Call the Police, an online directory of community-based alternatives to police, now has a page of options for Toronto and London. They're updating regularly so check to see if there are resources listed for your city. 

 

How can you protect your tech against online abuse before it happens?

Take Back the Tech! has curated a helpful Safety Toolkit that can direct you to information on everything from protecting your passwords and devices to keeping your digital data and conversations private. They even have easy tips for securing your smartphone.

 

If the very idea of fortifying your devices to prepare for potential online abuse is overwhelming, the Speak Up & Stay Safe(r) Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment (created by those who have been through it) recommends doing just two helpful things to start:

 

  1. Activate 2-step authentication (here's how).

  2. Beef up your passwords (here's how) and consider using an open source password manager to keep them secure.