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How to Combat Social Media Abuse and Harassment

Welcome to The Social Lab! This blog will help you navigate your personal social media and investigate marketing trends and examples of great social media work. Do you have something we should talk about? Make sure to send us an email.

April, 2018 Update:

Twitter continues to struggle to protect individuals on its platform, especially those who prescribe as women. This #ToxicTwitter analysis done by Amnesty International goes in-depth on the extreme amounts of online violence, including rape threats, that women are constantly facing on Twitter. Continue reading below for the original blog post on the abuse and cyberbullying that takes form on all social media platforms. 


In 2017, Twitter unveiled a roadmap for fighting against social media abuse and harassment. While we commend Twitter for taking these steps, we feel that all social media platforms have been slow when it comes to protecting victims of online abuse. 


We never feel that the survivor of harassment should have to file reports and block individuals since it should be the platform's job to protect their users. With that being said, the fact remains that social media abuse is rampant and causing actual harm not just to young adults but all age groups. So, what can an individual do to fight this issue? 


Companies and brands should have zero tolerance for threats, abuse, or harassment on their social media accounts. Open dialogue is healthy, but aggressive language that directly attacks an individual does not help to create a safe space. Reporting an individual on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform is one step a business can take. Something essential to consider is the severity of reporting. It should be utilized for instances of harassment, not for moments when an individual doesn't like your brand or gives you a bad review. This clogs up the system and is similar to calling 911 when there isn't an emergency. Are you worried that reporting an individual will make other people view you as controlling or tyrannical? There is a risk depending on your current followers, but you should consider it a real-world experience. Suppose you were a therapist running a group session for individuals, and one person began calling another person, or even a group of people, harmful things. Wouldn't you ask the individual to leave (and then talk to them later)? Sometimes, you must take steps to keep the conversation healthy and productive. 


If you are an individual, company, or brand, you should feel empowered to call someone out when they are using graphic imagery, hate symbols, or attacking groups of individuals. Why can't a business fight for social causes such as equality? If you notice someone being bullied or flooded, you should report them, and hopefully, many other people will as well. The more reports filed, the higher the chance a social media platform will do something about it. Businesses or brands should work their reactions to harmful behavior into their social media strategy. Having the cognizance to keep a healthy social media atmosphere is a brand voice in and of itself. 


Like everything regarding public health, prevention is critical, which is why the posts you create and the comments you share are so important. To help create a safe environment, always be mindful of your brand voice. If you are promoting an environment that isn't safe, then it should be no surprise that abuse or harassment could take place. Your brand voice is critical when considering a different kind of abuse, spamming. Constantly filling people's feeds with spam is harassment and should be reported. If you are a brand or company engaged in this act, then you are not helping create a healthy social media environment. As we always say, social media is not a playground for "growth-hacking" or "greyhat" activities. It's a place for healthy conversation and real-life engagement. 


What if you are a survivor of social media abuse? If you do not feel comfortable taking action against the individual (either online or with the police), you should seek help for yourself. Keeping a healthy mind is essential for your happiness and overall health, and remember that others love you. Attempt to talk to your family, loved ones, or close friends. Also, contact a crisis hotline such as this prevention center if you feel unsafe. Sadly, with the policies in place by social media platforms such as Twitter, it is up to the survivors to take action against the abuse they have gone up against. Many individuals who feel they can say anything without punishment manipulate and treat social media poorly. Remember, everything you type and display can be used against you, so don't let these individuals get away with their behavior. Instead, hold them accountable and report them to the appropriate authorities. 


Overall, it is up to the company, the individual, and all the bystanders to try to make social media as safe and healthy as possible. Businesses and brands should feel empowered to combat abuse by reporting and calling out individuals. Businesses and brands should enable others to take action. If significant brands began writing abusive individuals online, it would empower other people to take action as well. Bystanders can also help eliminate hate by fighting against it (in a mature manner). Remaining silent is not the answer when it comes to fighting against abuse, discrimination, and hatred. Just like anything with life, make sure to take a look at your actions. Evaluate what you post, not just for social media guidelines, but for the general message you share with the world. 


What do you do to combat social media abuse and harassment? Let us know through email or by commenting below. 


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