Online Harassment Toolkit

Steps to Take If You’re Facing Online Harassment

What newsrooms can do

It shouldn’t only be up to individual journalists facing harassment to combat it. Newsrooms have a responsibility to help protect their staff.

  • Monitor press mentions with tools like Muckrack. Within those tools you can usually isolate a group of sites that may drive online harassment to keep a closer eye on repeat offenders.
  • Alert social media teams that a team member has been doxxed so they can inform others should they see trolls tagging the site as well as the journalist, and potentially notify social media platforms of the harassment.
  • Empower the PR Team, or some other designated team, to reach out to social media platforms to report heavy abuse to take that burden off the individual journalist. The designated support team can search for the journalist’s handle on social media sites and screenshot harassment to share with platforms.
  • Alert team members tasked with watching online responses when a particularly controversial piece may run. Being proactive can help catch harassment early.
  • Managers should offer time off to the affected staff member and suggest they make their accounts private if they haven’t already done so.
  • If you have a commenting section on your site, make sure you have a community manager in charge of monitoring the messages.
  • Consider hiring an online safety editor.
  • Consider paying a content monitoring service to protect the attacked journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists suggests DeleteMe or Recorded Future as options.
  • The International Press Institute has a step-by-step guide for creating an online harassment protocol for your newsroom.
  • The IPI partnered with the Dart Center, which provides resources around trauma, to create online tutorials about coping with online harassment.
  • The Technology and Social Change project, led by a Harvard researcher, recommends newsrooms build a culture of support to respond to online harassment, provide an annual digital security checkup to every journalist and have a digital security specialist on call.

What to do before you get doxxed

  • Make sure your passwords are secure
  • Use Have I Been Pwned? to check if your information has been part of a data breach. Change passwords to all affected accounts.
  • Delete accounts you no longer use. Take inventory of your accounts by searching your email account for terms like “welcome” or “sign up” to create a list of accounts that need to be scrubbed.  
  • Remove your data from the web. The World Privacy Forum has suggestions for several ways to do this. Yael Grauer also has a list of data brokers you can opt out from.
  • Check to see if your resume is online with your address and number. You can search for this by googling “‘[First Name] [Last Name]’ filetype:pdf.” Work to remove those resumes by reaching out to website owners. The Coalition Against Online Violence recommends replacing your online resume with one that doesn’t have private info.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your name and common misspellings to monitor what people are saying about you online.
  • Consider using a service like PimEyes to search for all images of yourself on the internet and work to remove images you’ve forgotten are on Facebook or other public-facing platforms. PimEyes is a paid service and you have to provide a photo of yourself to start the search, so make sure to use an already public-facing image, such as your LinkedIn photo. Yandex offers a similar service.
  • Disable location tracking on phone apps, especially social media apps like Instagram and Facebook, which can post your location whenever you upload a photo. Teaching Privacy, a project by UC Berkeley and the Computer Science Institute, has instructions on how to disable location tracking on iPhones and Androids in English and Spanish.

More resources

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