Five Tips For Dealing with Online Harassment | Beth's Blog

Five Tips For Dealing with Online Harassment

Engagement, Strategy


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Note from Beth:  Online harassment is a problem especially for nonprofits that are doing advocacy for controversial issues.  My colleague Hannah Brennan, Senior Manager at Social Misfits Media, has written this post to share with a useful infographic on how to deal with trolls online.

A Guide to Dealing with Online Harassment for Non-Profits

One in eight Britons have been harassed online, according to a recent YouGov report.  While 18-24 year olds are most likely to receive online abuse, this unpleasant practice affects people of every age, all around the world, and can lead to further problems offline. Social Misfits Media has, once again, teamed up with Hollaback! to help organisations effectively tackle online harassment.

With an increasingly uncertain political climate, more organisations – particularly those working with women and girls, minority groups, or tackling sensitive issues – are receiving unwanted responses to their work online. Often, these organisations are doing incredible work and supporting vulnerable people who need their help more than ever due to the current state of the world. Social media is a key channel to reach those who need support the most.

At Social Misfits Media we work closely with a wide variety of non-profits, particularly the digital teams, and one of the challenges we see many organisations face is how to deal with harassment online. If an organisation approaches it in the wrong way, either by ignoring or simply deleting, it could be detrimental.

We strongly believe that being harassed, or the fear of being harassed, shouldn’t be allowed to impact this work. All non-profits should feel safe and confident when dealing with online harassment.

To help prepare non-profit’s we teamed up with Hollaback! to release an updated and easier-to-use version of our flowchart – which is free to down here. The flowchart provides guidance on how to deal with those unwanted, and potentially harmful, comments.

The flowchart is intended to be used in the moment, to help deal with specific situations when they arise, to distinguish between what is and isn’t online harassment and figure out what to do when online harassment occurs. Save it, share it with your team, print it off and put it up in your office, and make sure all of your staff feel safe and in control when dealing with any form of online harassment, and that your organisation as a whole deals with harassment efficiently and consistently.

When unwanted comments pop up on your non-profit’s social channels, refer to the flowchart, and keep these 5 key tips in mind:

1: Don’t just delete any unwanted comments or questions.
Sometimes a question, although unwanted, may be asked in earnest, or it may just be that someone is misinformed. As an organisation, and an expert in your field, it’s important to share knowledge, spread awareness, and act as a thought leader for your cause. When responding to comments always consider sources (try and cite them), timeliness (it’s always best to respond as soon as possible) and tone of voice (keep it calm). It might be worth considering an FAQ section on your website so that you can direct misinformed people to it, and myth bust any continual misinformation.

2: Report threatening or offensive comments to the platform.
If the comment is intentionally harmful, this needs to be reported to the platform, and the offending user needs to be blocked from your organisation’s profile. If online harassment is an ongoing concern, you’ll want to develop policies and procedures to protect your organisation and support your team. To learn how, Hollaback! has developed a series of online resources. For further advice, including how to report to a platform, visit Hollaback!’s website.

3: Try to take genuine grievances off public channels.
Determine the tone of the comment. Is it negative, inquisitive or an earnest question? If someone is continually posting on your organisation’s social media channels, but their questions or comments are genuine grievances, invite them to send you a private message (either an email or a direct message) so you can deal with this directly, in private.

4: Keep your team informed.
Your organisation should create and implement a plan with clear instructions on how to deal with online harassment and include resources like the flowchart. Once this plan has been created, add it to all employee, volunteer and intern policy documents. Include it in onboarding of new team members and email it out to staff every six months. In the event of online harassment, your team will know what resources they can turn to, and they’ll also know they have your support.

5: Deal with repeat offenders effectively.
If the user comments again, start the flowchart process from the beginning, as you may need to adjust how you respond (or don’t). If you continue to receive comments or posts from a single user, consider reporting them to the platform. It may also be helpful to have a policy where you only respond to a user up to 3 times, and then send a link to further information, such as an FAQ section on your website. Similarly, a serial harasser is someone who is deliberately offensive or provocative online. You can spot them by looking at their profile and checking if they regularly send offensive comments or tweets to lots of different people/organisations. If their profile is private a few clues might be that they don’t have a profile picture, or that they’re a relatively new user.

By getting organised and putting together a plan for how to deal with online harassment, it will save you time and stress if and when unwanted comments do arise. It will also ensure that your team react consistently to these comments and minimise the risk of anything escalating by nipping it in the bud and dealing with it in the correct way.

For further help on how to report to a platform, and for advice on developing anti-harassment policies for your organisation, see Hollaback!’s online resources here.

For more free guides to help you get the most out of social media visit the Social Misfits Media website here.

Hannah Brennan is Senior Manager at Social Misfits Media, specialising in helping charities, foundations and non-profits better use social media to reach their goals. Follow Hannah and Social Misfits Media on Twitter at @hannahebrennan_ and @MisfitsMedia.

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