According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of adults report being the subject of harassing behavior online, and 66 percent have witnessed harassing behavior directed at others. Responding to online harassment can be challenging, even scary if the harassment becomes threatening. The UI Office of Strategic Communication recommends the following options.
- Ignore them. The goal of social media agitators (commonly referred to as trolls) is to elicit a response. The good news is that even the most persistent trolls typically move on if you ignore them long enough.
- Mute them. If you are tired of seeing what someone is saying about you on Twitter, mute them. This can be a good first step. The harassing party is not notified that you’ve muted them, and you can blissfully ignore their hateful comments. If you are worried their comments may become threatening, ask a friend or colleague to check your feed on your behalf.
- Block them. Several social media platforms allow you to selectively prevent others from following you, seeing your posts, or commenting on your content. Please note that when you block someone, they are typically notified of the block and may choose to criticize you on their own channels.
- Respond. If someone is sharing misinformation about you or your work, consider sharing a brief response to correct the falsehoods. This will likely result in additional posts from the harassing party, but it does give you a platform to set the record straight. If you choose to respond, make sure to follow these steps: a. Stick to undisputable facts that are not open to interpretation. Trolls are not interested in having rational or open-minded conversations. Keep responses short, concise, and above all factual. Correct inaccuracies and move on. b. Maintain your dignity. Be polite, professional, and unemotional. Resist becoming defensive or fighting fire with fire. You will only appear combative.
- Record and report. If you feel at all threatened, contact the proper authorities and keep a record of the hostile or threatening posts. Take and save screenshots in case you need to file a police report or take legal action. You can find resources at https://its.uiowa.edu/safety.
For more information, please contact Michael Benning, social media director for the Office of Strategic Communication, at 319-384-0018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.