How to Combat Social Media Abuse and Harassment
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April, 2018 Update:
Twitter continues to struggle when it comes to protecting individuals on their platform, especially individuals that 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 cyber-bullying that takes form on all social media platforms.
Over the course of 2017, Twitter has been unveiling 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 as if the survivor of harassment should have to file reports and block individuals, since it should be the job of the platform to protect their users. With that being said, the fact remains that social media abuse is rampant and causing real harm not just to young adults, but all age groups. So what can an individual due 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 is not helping to create a safe space. Reporting an individual on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform is one step a business can make. Something important 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 simply clogs up the system and is similar to calling 911 when there isn't an emergency. Are you worried that reporting an individual will result in other people viewing you as controlling or tyrannical? There is a risk depending on your current followers, but you should think of it as a real world experience. If 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 need to 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 are attacking groups of individuals. Why can't a business fight for social causes such as equality? If you notice someone being bullied or attacked, 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. In fact, businesses or brands should work the reactions they will take towards 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.
Just like everything when it comes to public health, prevention is key, 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 especially important 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 that engaged in this act, then you are not helping to create a healthy social media environment. Just like 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 the survivor of social media abuse? If you do not feel comfortable taking action against the individual (either online or with the police), then you should attempt to seek out help for yourself. Keeping a healthy mind is important when it comes to your happiness and overall health and just remember that you are loved by others. Attempt to talk to your family, loved ones, or close friends. Also remember that if you don't feel safe, contact a crisis hotline such as this prevention center. Sadly, with the policies in place by social media platforms such as Twitter, it is up to the survivor to take action against the abuse they have gone up against. Social media is manipulated and treated poorly by so many individuals that feel they can say anything they want without punishment. Just remember, everything you type and say 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. In fact, businesses and brands should empower others to take action. If major brands began reporting individuals that were abusive online, then 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 own actions. Evaluate what you yourself post, not just for social media guidelines, but for the general message you are sharing with the world.
What do you do to combat social media abuse and harassment? Let us know through email or by commenting below.