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Things To Do If You Witness Online Abuse

Witnessing online abuse can be a difficult thing. We all know that it can range from a petty joke to a huge pile-on that can actively ruin a life or a career. But sometimes, you can see something that might be especially triggering for you or others, like transphobic, homophobic or racist abuse. Most of us have unfortunately witnessed online abuse and it can be tricky knowing what, if anything, you can do to help. Don’t worry, got2b and Ditch the Label have you covered.

The Online Pile-On

What Is It?

An online pile-on is when somebody receives abuse from a lot of people in a short period of time. It’s also known as cancel culture. Usually it’s when someone in the public eye makes a mistake but it could also be much smaller and aimed at someone you know. Experiencing an online pile-on can be extremely stressful and damaging to someone’s mental health. Going through it can feel like the whole world is against you and the impact can be long lasting.

How Can You Help?

When you see an online pile-on, it can feel like you are pretty helpless to stop it. The fact that you want to help says a lot about your character. Here are a few things you can do to support someone:

  • Report the abuse to the social media platform
  • Report abuse to Ditch the Label and they can get it removed faster
  • Reach out to the person privately to show your support for them
  • If you comment publicly showing your support, be wary - some people might see you as a target for further abuse
  • Don’t do anything to positively reinforce the abuse -- this includes sharing, liking or commenting
  • Vote with your feet - if you follow somebody engaging in online abuse, feel free to cleanse your timeline and hit the block button.

Transphobia, Homophobia, Racism And Sexism

What Is It?

Transphobic, homophobic, racist and sexist abuse is unfortunately a growing issue in online spaces. It might not even be directed to you or someone specific, but rather an account or individual who frequently engages in posting content that is directly offensive to a minority. It can come from prominent individuals or just someone that you know in your life. It can contain;

  • Slurs against the minority group
  • Misinformation, lies and defamatory comments
  • Direct abuse towards an individual within these minority groups
  • Trolling comments designed to anger or upset

What should you do?

When you witness something like this, it can be very triggering for you or others who are in one of these minority groups. Here are some thing you can do to help yourself or someone who is affected by this kind of abuse on social media:

  • Always report it to the social media platform - most social networks take any forms of hatred incredibly seriously. You can also report this directly to Ditch the Label if your report isn’t taken seriously
  • For content that is threatening or explicitly hateful, consider reporting it to the Police as in most countries it is against the law
  • If you are able to, reach out to the person being targeted and encourage them to report it, screenshot and take some time out to practice self-care. Let them know that they aren’t alone and that help and support is available
  • Find safe spaces for yourself or someone who is affected by this online - these should be open and accepting spaces where you can fully express who you are without being subjected to abuse - examples include Black Lives Matter, Mermaids and Ditch the Label

Online Bullying On Social Media

What Is It?

Cyberbullying, also known as online bullying, is when somebody purposefully does something to upset, intimidate, threaten or spread lies about you. Unfortunately it is common, with half of all young people experiencing it. It can happen in so many different ways, for example:

  • Offensive TikTok videos, Instagram posts or stories, Facebook posts, Tweets, Reddit posts or anything else that is purposefully offensive
  • Nasty or offensive direct messages
  • Fake accounts set up to spread deliberate lies and misinformation
  • The creation of offensive memes about somebody or the sharing of embarrassing photos
  • Comments and replies on social media content that are abusive

What can you do?

There’s lots of things you can do if you witness online abuse via social media.

  • Social media platforms have well developed reporting features, which is a great place to start
  • You may also want to block the offending user as having negativity on your timeline, regardless of who it is directed at, often has a negative impact on your mood
  • If you know the person posting the abuse and you feel comfortable doing so, reach out and ask them to remove it. Check in on them and ask if they are okay, quite often people who post abusive content online are struggling IRL
  • If you know the person being targeted, reach out to them privately and let them know that they aren’t alone and that you’re there if they need somebody to talk to
  • Report it to Ditch the Label - they have trusted flagger status and can work hard to get it taken down faster
  • If you witness a classmate being bullied online, it might be a good idea to let your teacher know what’s going on, especially if the abuse is coming from another classmate.

Trolling In Online Gaming

What Is It?

Trolling in an online game can sometimes be hard to identify because some people claim it’s just part of gameplay. But there’s a difference between friendly banter and actual abuse, which may include:

  • Having your account hacked and your private information leaked
  • Being targeted repeatedly by another gamer or group of gamers
  • Abusive text and voice messages in-game
  • Use of language that is insulting and hateful towards a person or group of people

What should you do?

Games should be fun for everybody and abuse can seriously affect the enjoyment of gameplay and discourage others from gaming. If you witness abuse within a game, here are some things you can do:

  • If you are able to and the game has reporting features, report the abusive gamer and their content, giving as much detail as possible
  • If you know the abusive gamer, don’t be afraid to tell them to chill out and call out their toxic behaviour - don’t feel pressured to keep them on your friend list or in your team. Often not saying anything just encourages them to continue
  • If you can, buddy up with the person being targeted and encourage them to block the other user or switch servers
  • Most games enable players to disable their microphones and audio coming from other players - including features to mute other gamers.