Targeted assaults, lasting any amount of time, at a high intensity, that cause harm, intentionally exploiting vulnerabilities. Harassment is an attack on human dignity, reputation and privacy, with the goal of silencing and/or curtailing the target’s digital participation.

This is an umbrella term that covers different acts: from sexually explicit threats to varying degrees of privacy invasion. 

The structure of the digital ecosystem means that attacks may come from one person and via one platform, but spread via additional perpetrators/platforms as a cyber mob attack. Online harassment, as we see it on one platform, is often much more widely disseminated, and therefore, potentially more impactful.

It is of utmost importance to recognize that a person targeted with online abuse is in no way to blame: there is no excuse for violence. If you are targeted with any type of digital violence, we urge you to seek support from your support networks - primarily friends, family, that can understand you and your feelings. Take time away from spaces where you’re experiencing the harassment, and ask people you trust to check on your accounts, emails and update you about the status of attack, or help you collect digital evidence .

In the case of cyber-mob harassment - potentially a huge volume of messaging, across multiple platforms and channels of communication - emotional support and practical help from friends and family is a key element of regaining a sense of safety.

The most effective prevention mechanisms are those grounded in a holistic approach to safety, including physical, mental and digital (with a crucial focus on consistent digital hygiene). Until digital hygiene and holistic principles of safety do not become a routine, it is crucial to continually undertake processes of risk assessment, such as to evaluate a potential offence - when it happened, why and from whom? If possible, you can request from your employer to connect you with a therapist, legal council or court representation if needed.

There is always the option of abstaining from social media for a certain period of time, but given our reliance on these platforms, this is a strategy that is much easier said than done. Try instead to limit the time you spend on these platforms and interact with people you trust in closed group settings. The most important thing is to take care of yourself, and acknowledge your feelings, even if it means allowing yourself a few days to lie in bed under the blankets, doing nothing.

When you feel ready, you can work on improving your digital security and hygiene. Check DIY online safety guide and ZEN  and the art of making tech work for you. If you are a journalist check also this Totem course on online protection. If you want to learn more OnLine sos  is an excellent place to start as well as Feminist frequency, a detailed overview of different self-help mechanisms. 

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