According to some reports, online abuse and harassment has increased during the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Increased use of social media and working from home have made it harder for victims to “hide” their locations – and made them more accessible to trolls.
How do you deal with online harassment?
Online abuse can be shocking and scary – and many people don’t know what to do when they are attacked. Here’s a quick guide that outlines your options if you are unlucky enough to become a victim of trollbul
Act quickly to collect evidence
It is absolutely essential that you collect evidence of abuse as quickly as possible – without it, the police will be unable to act. Make sure you save copies of emails and take screenshots of offensive messages before your harasser can delete them.
If you find the process too distressing, ask a trusted friend or family member to help.
Make a police report
Most countries now have laws that ban malicious communications – and in many cases, abuse is covered by other laws regarding harassment. When you have been received content that is offensive, indecent, obscene or threatening, it may be a criminal offence. The same is true if messages are directed at your race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or identity.
If you have received any of this kind of content, you should report the matter to the police for further investigation.
Report abuse to service providers
All online services have a conduct that users must agree and abide by – including not harassing other users. Anyone who fails to follow these rules can have their account terminated. The service provider may also report any serious breaches to the police.
In some very rare instances, determined trolls will create new accounts. If this happens, you should continue to collect evidence and make reports to the police and service providers. It may feel that you are wasting your time, but demonstrating a pattern of abusive behaviour is useful for prosecuting persistent law breakers.
Seek legal advice
Online abuse may also breach various civil laws that are designed to protect your privacy and reputation. You should consider seeking legal advice from a lawyer who can provide further advise on protecting yourself.
Depending on what has happened, you may be able to apply for a restraining order that prevents your harasser from making further contact. If the order is breached, the abuser may be prosecuted, fined or even jailed – and you may be able to sue them in a civil suit too.
Harassment is never pleasant – and it can be extremely distressing. However, by remaining calm you and following these steps, you should be able to end the abuse forever.