First of all, harassment, what is it?
There has been a lot of focus upon sexual harassment, particularly since the #MeToo movement, and since this movement there has been more focus upon the abuse faced by individuals in the digital world. Although social media and mobile technologies have opened up a positive world of knowledge, communication and expression, it also facilitates and enables behaviours present in the offline world, with the added dimension of anonymity.
Online harassment can take many forms, but in the simplest terms it is online abuse, it is when someone makes you feel humiliated, threatened or distressed online. There are various behaviours which constitute online harassment, we will take a look at some of these now…
1. Online Stalking
Someone may send you unwanted messages online in a threatening persistent way, or they may use digital methods to track your movements. If someone asks to track you via your phone either using ‘find my phone’ or asks you to turn off ghost mode on snapchat, think twice and ask yourself about the intent behind this, after all you have a right to privacy! If you are unsure how to switch on ghost mode on snapchat and protect your location check this out: https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/news/ghost-mode-timer
2. Image-based sexual abuse
You may have sent an image to someone you thought you could trust, this person may have broken your trust, passed on this image or shown it to their friends or others. This is not ok, if you are over the age of 18, then this is an unlawful act, the person who shared your image has committed a crime and there is help and support out there through organisations such as the national Revenge Porn Helpline. If you are under the age of 18, and your intimate image has been shared online, or you have found a sexual image of an under 18 online, you can report the image anonymously to the Internet Watch Foundation (https://report.iwf.org.uk/en), they do this crazy thing where they tag images using what I can only describe as a digital hashtag, they can then remove all the images associated with that code, pretty awesome right?
Sextortion is a form of blackmail, typically the person on the other side of the screen coerces and encourages an individual to perform sexual acts online, for example through livestreaming, webcam, facetime or messages. These images or videos are then used against the individual as a way of bribery for more images, for sexual exploitation, monetary blackmail or hacking. This is again an offence, if someone threatens to share your image or video, as hard as it is, don’t panic and keep the evidence, call the police or contact the Revenge Porn Helpline (https://revengepornhelpline.org.uk) or CEOP if you are under the age of 18 (https://www.ceop.police.uk/ceop-reporting) for help and support.
4. Online hate crime
Online hate crime is the same as offline hate crime, it causes distress and damage to the person on the other end of the abusive messages, pictures, videos or other media. You may have received hurtful messages as a result of your race, religion or sexual orientation. This is not ok, it is discriminatory behaviour, and you can report this abusive content to the internet providers. True Vision have more information about hate crime and reporting online hate crime to the police as well as social media platforms here: http://www.report-it.org.uk/home
Online harassment has offline harms, with those who have experienced online harassment suggesting that they have suffered with mental ill-health, as well as relationship issues, employment and social difficulties. As tempting as it is to delete all the information, messages and images straight away, make sure you don’t. Take those vital screenshots, this is important evidence needed to ensure you can get the right support and help.
If you have experienced any forms of online harassment mentioned in this article, this is not ok, and you have the right to get the help and support you deserve. Speak to someone you trust, inform internet providers or the police, contact your student support services or get in touch with one of the national organisations who have the expertise to assist you. It is time to take a stand against online harassment and hate crime.