Some tips on dealing with online violence and abuse on Twitter

Staying safe on Twitter

Violence and abuse against women on Twitter as well as other online platforms is widespread. In addition to Amnesty International’s campaign to end violence and abuse against women on Twitter, here are some tips on what you can do if you are experiencing abuse online or see someone else experiencing abuse.

1. Identify abuse

Online violence and abuse against women has become a far too common experience. In a recent poll commissioned by Amnesty, 23% of women surveyed across eight countries had experienced online abuse or harassment on social media platforms.

Online abuse can take many forms, from threats of violence such as physical or sexual threats, to content that is sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise targets someone’s identity, as well as material that aims to belittle, humiliate or undermine an individual. It also includes doxxing (i.e. revealing personal or identifying documents (or docs=dox) or details online about someone without her consent) or sharing sexual and private images of a woman without her consent. You can find out more information about violence and abuse against women online here.

2. Report them

Everyone will deal with violence and abuse online differently. However, we recommend that the first step you take is to report abuse to the platform. Twitter’s own rules say that hateful conduct and abuse is prohibited and reporting such content can help ensure that other users don’t see it in the future.

This step is also important in instances where an official police complaint is also filed. This link shows how reports of abuse on Twitter can be downloaded for evidence.

Note: Reporting abuse you have witnessed can be difficult since abuse can come from multiple accounts and tweets. The reporting mechanism is not always effective either in addressing abuse (see our recent research).

3. Mute them

Twitter gives you the option to mute the accounts by removing certain tweets from your timeline without blocking or unfollowing accounts. Advanced muting options allow for words and hashtags to be muted as well. This can be particularly helpful for those who may be triggered by specific words or references to abusive content on Twitter.

Note: Advance muting means that you may not be able to receive non-abusive content and opportunities to interact with other users on the platform. This function can also prevent you from knowing if you have become a target of violence and abuse on the platform from people you have muted.

4. Block them

Twitter as well as many other social media platforms allows you to block accounts which will prevent them from interacting with you or viewing your Tweets when they are logged on.

Note: Blocking can be burdensome if you experience multiple abusive tweets or abuse from multiple accounts. Although blocking accounts removes the tweets from your feed and limits the ability of blocked users to directly interact with you – it does not stop blocked users from mentioning your name in abusive tweets or abusing others.

5. Disable your location

Disabling your location is a great way to protect yourself online. If you are using Twitter on your mobile, you have the option to enable or disable your location for each Tweet posted. Disabling your location may be useful as it means that people will be less able to easily monitor or track your whereabouts or activities.

6. Disable location on your photos

Smartphones store metadata in your photographs, including the location. If your location services are turned ‘on’ for your camera and you post an image to your social media account the image can be used to pinpoint your location, even if you’ve turned off location services for Twitter. To protect your location you can choose to disable location for all services like images, videos, or any platform you are posting images to.

7. Setting a strong password

Use a new, different, password for each social media site you use. Reusing the same password across lots of sites means that only one of those sites has to get hacked to put your digital identity as risk.

Most people find ‘passphrases’ easier to remember than passwords – this comic shows a good approach to picking passphrases that are both strong and easy to remember.

8. Two Factor Authentication

A good way to help avoid your account being hacked is to enable two factor authentication on all of your social media accounts as this adds another layer of security to your account. You can set this up by going to your privacy settings in your Twitter account.

9. Filter notifications

You can choose to filter any notifications you receive from users on Twiter. For example, you can choose to not receive notifications from accounts that you don’t follow on Twitter. Remember, filtering your notifications means that you will not be notified if you have become a target of abuse by someone you do not follow

10. “I don’t like this tweet”

You can also mark individual Tweets as “I don’t like this Tweet”. This enables Twitter to understand what kinds of Tweets you would rather not see in your feed and can help tailor a better Twitter experience.

11. Make your account private

By default, Twitter accounts are public. You do, however, have the option to protect your Tweets which effectively means making your account private so only your approved followers can see your tweets and interact with you (this applies to all tweets ever posted by you).

12. Detox

When experiencing abuse or seeing others experience abuse on Twitter or other online platforms, it can be helpful to ensure regular intervals offline or time away away from these platforms. Sometimes you may want a total digital detox!

Twitter as well as many other social media platforms allow users to temporarily or permanently deactivate their account. While maintaining your online presence may be necessary, it is also important to keep in mind that online abuse can have a harmful psychological impact and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the abuse.