Love More Than Ever is launching “Project: Speak Out” and teaming up with other organizations to help fight back against online harassment and bullying. Each of us has the power to choose what we give our attention to online. We can all choose to block out the online hatred, trolls and bullying that makes up the culture of cyberbullying. So let’s block the negative messages we each receive from social media, create a safe positive online space, and encourage and empower others to do the same.
WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?
Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behavior, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. Examples include:
spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos of someone on social media
sending hurtful messages or threats via messaging platforms
impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf.
Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.
WHO SHOULD I TALK TO IF SOMEONE IS BULLYING ME ONLINE? WHY IS REPORTING IMPORTANT?
If you think you’re being bullied, the first step is to seek help from someone you trust such as your parents, a close family member or another trusted adult.
In your school you can reach out to a counselor, the sports coach or your favorite teacher.
And if you are not comfortable talking to someone you know, search for a helpline in your country to talk to a professional counsellor.
If the bullying is happening on a social platform, consider blocking the bully and formally reporting their behavior on the platform itself. Social media companies are obligated to keep their users safe.
It can be helpful to collect evidence – text messages and screen shots of social media posts – to show what’s been going on.
For any bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key.
If you’re being bullied online, we encourage you to talk to a parent, teacher or someone else you can trust -- you have a right to be safe. We also make it easy to report any bullying directly within Facebook or Instagram.
You can always send our team an anonymous report from a post, comment or story on Facebook or Instagram.
We have a team who reviews these reports 24/7 around the world in 50+ languages, and we’ll remove anything that’s abusive or bullying. These reports are always anonymous.
We have a guide on Facebook that can help lead you through the process of dealing with bullying -- or what to do if you see someone else being bullied. On Instagram, we also have a Parent’s Guide that provides recommendations for parents, guardians and trusted adults on how to navigate cyberbullying, and a central hub where you can learn about our safety tools.
If you think that you are being cyberbullied, the most important thing is to ensure you are safe. It’s essential to have someone to talk to about what you are going through. This may be a teacher, another trusted adult, or a parent. Talk to your parents and friends about what to do if you or a friend are being cyberbullied.
We encourage people to report accounts to us that may break our rules. You can do this through the support pages on our Help Center or through the in-Tweet reporting mechanism by clicking on the “Report a Tweet” option.
CYBERSTALKING: HOW TO PREVENT CYBERSTALKING, REPORT CYBERSTALKERS TO FBI
Stalking, threats, and harassment offenses are often thought to be local law enforcement matters. But with the increased use of technology and the multi-jurisdictional nature of many of these crimes, federal law enforcement and prosecutors can offer additional resources to effectively pursue these cases that may exceed the capacity of local law enforcement. Indeed, the use of technology has erased traditional borders, complicating cases that would otherwise appear straightforward.
REPORT, RECOVER & REINFORCE
Reporting cyberstalking is very important! You will help law enforcement track these types of incidents and help them decrease cybercrime. They can also provide you with useful information about what next steps to take and share your report with other law enforcement partners.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
If you are an LGBTQ individual being bullied because of your sexuality contact The Trevor Project at 866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386).
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) national toll-free hotline:1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678)
The National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 SMS/TEXT: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”)
If you are a victim of crime, click here for a U.S. Resource Map of Crime Victim Services & Information in your state or territory. You will find information on Victim compensation and assistance, notification programs and more.
Once you have notified the right organizations and you are on the road to recovery, it is time to reinforce your online safety using these resources and tools.
Improve Your Security: Find cybersecurity tools to enhance your online safety.
YOU’RE NOT POWERLESS IN THE FACE OF ONLINE HARASSMENT
While discussing online abuse can elicit feelings of fear and shame, remember that abuse is intended to isolate you. You are not alone. Seek support from friends, family, and colleagues, and deploy your wider cyber community to serve as allies. If you are being abused in retaliation for your work, are concerned about professional ramifications, or feel physically unsafe, seriously consider telling your employer or professional contacts (in writing). Your employer may be able to offer support, from mental health care to legal counsel, and help escalate your concerns to tech companies and law enforcement.
Because not everyone is equally well-versed in what online abuse is, prepare yourself for these conversations by bringing documentation, emphasizing the impact the abuse has had on your livelihood, and being clear about whether you’re asking for a listening ear or specific assistance — like helping you report, document, or assess your safety.
Speak Out (With Caveats!)
The standard advice “Don’t feed the trolls” is often sound. Abusers, when confronted, may escalate attacks or try to goad their targets into lashing out to get them in trouble. Speaking out against abuse, however, can also be profoundly empowering. The key is to be careful and deliberate as you decide what will work for you. One way to do this is to practice counterspeech without directly confronting your abuser. Counterspeech could involve forcefully denouncing harassment and hate, defending your reputation, reclaiming an abusive symbol or hashtag, fact-checking disinformation, and enlisting the support of your allies or employer. Some folks have even gotten creative, responding to their abusers by sending puppy photos or telling their mothers about their bad behavior. Basically, do what feels right for you — but be mindful of your employer’s social media policy, and avoid resorting to abuse yourself.
Remember, this is not your fault. Online abuse can elicit feelings of fear and shame. It is exhausting and demoralizing. It can do real and lasting damage to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Resist the urge to ignore how you’re feeling, and remember that people can be affected differently depending on their race, gender, sexuality, and experience. Make time for self-care. This can include anything from meditation or cooking to listening to music or going for walks. Whatever you choose, it must involve taking regular breaks from your devices.
Seeking professional mental health care can also make a big difference, especially if you get to a point where you feel hopeless or paralyzed by fear, talk about your abuse obsessively, struggle to enjoy things, or have difficulty eating or sleeping. If you do not have access to mental health care benefits through an employer, take a look at the ADAA’s Guide to Affordable Mental Health Care and check out this advice from a psychologist with her own experience of online abuse.
You don’t have to follow each and every step listed above, let alone in order. In fact, you may end up doing a bunch of these things at the same time, or skipping some and coming back to others when they are most helpful. Remember that, at the individual level, it is exceedingly difficult to prevent people from being abusive online and, at the institutional level, there’s still much work to be done to improve tools for self-defense and mechanisms for accountability. But the above guidance offers a good place for individuals experiencing abuse to start.
Armed with your own wits and resilience, bolstered by concrete guidance and the support of others, you have the power to push back against abuse and protect the space for free expression in the digital realm.
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