How to deal with online harassment

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Image via The Atlantic

The internet is a great place (hello Netflix, cute selfies, and wholesome memes I’m looking at you), but it can also be a spot where *garbage people* from around the world spend their time harassing, intimidating, and threatening others.

If you’ve never heard of the term “Cyber-misogyny”, it would be a good thing to do a quick Google about. Basically, it’s the idea that women and girls face a lot more online harassment than other folks, simply because they are women and girls. It’s not necessarily the “fault” of the internet that this happens, but rather an extension of the crap women and girls face in the real world that is merely perpetuated in different ways online. Now, this also applies to BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Colour), queer and trans folk, and our Muslim communities. If you happen to be a member of a group that already faces oppression irl, chances are some mouth breather will use that if they’re trying to get under your skin online.

With some of these online attacks, we are able to simply roll our eyes, block the person, and move on. With others, however, it may be an ongoing campaign to belittle someone, scare them, and push them out of online spaces (lots and lots of female Twitter users have left the platform because of threats of real life violence or exposure of personal info), often resulting in fear of physical or sexual violence being perpetrated against the victim of online abuse.

So what can we do? How do we fight back?

In Session 7 of HRY (Social Media and Relationships), we look at how to build responsible online communities and spaces. A lot of it is the same as in the real world; stand up for others when you see harassment happening, don’t engage with people who are clearly looking to bother you, and don’t share other people’s information or pics if they haven’t given you permission. Let’s work together to build spaces where people can actually have fun and hang out without worrying about bullying, harassment, or intimidation. In the larger sense, we also need to create a world where we are constantly challenging misogyny, racism, and homophobia/transphobia until these opinions are no longer pervasive and accessible via the internet or anywhere else. It is up to us to create these spaces both online and in our classrooms, friend groups, and families.

For more information about your rights online, what’s legal, what’s not, and how to fight back if you have been targeted via the internet, check out West Coast LEAF’s very easy to read legal info brochure here:

http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2014-CYBER-MISOGYNY-Legal-Guide.pdf

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