Online harassment is a type of harassment that can take place on multiple platforms including email, instant messaging, social media sites, blogs and chat rooms. It includes offensive, abusive, violent, threatening, racist or explicit online content, which is designed to cause alarm or distress. It often involves cyber-bullying or “trolling”, but the creation of fake profiles in an individual’s name or using their pictures can also amount to an instance of harassment.
The University’s Student Disciplinary Procedure gives more detail on what constitutes online misconduct.
- 'Don't feed the trolls': Though we recognise that it may be difficult, the best thing you can do is not respond to the person who is posting abuse. This is because it is unlikely that you will be able to resolve things by responding – whoever is attacking you is often posting the messages just to get a reaction.
- Dealing with fake profiles: If you encounter fake profiles, which are set up using someone else's personal information and photos, or pretending to be that person online, you should report them to the relevant social media provider: Reporting fake profiles on Facebook; Reporting fake profiles on LinkedIn; Reporting fake profiles on Twitter;Reporting fake profiles on Instagram. These fake accounts can be used to 'befriend' or communicate with you, your colleagues and friends to get personal information, ridicule, or damage reputations.
The charity Protection against Stalking defines stalking as “a pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is repeated, persistent, intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim”. This type of behaviour is unwanted, persistent, and almost always carried out (or orchestrated by) one individual towards another individual.
If the behaviour is persistent and clearly unwanted, causing you fear, distress or anxiety then you should seek help and support. You can Contact Protection Against Stalking, using their referral form or call the National Stalking Helpline. Protection Against Stalking also run a monthly drop-in with cyber security experts in the Tonbridge area of West Kent every Wednesday 12pm-8pm.
External support available for online harassment and stalking
- Bright Sky App is a free to download mobile app that provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or those concerned about someone they know. The app is for anyone looking for information about issues around domestic abuse such as online safety, stalking and harassment and sexual consent.
- Get Safe Online The website compiles a range of information and advice on online safety.
- Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment
- UK Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading charities who aim to make the internet a better place for children and young people.
- National Stalking Helpline: Offers information, advice and guidance to individuals subjected to stalking. Telephone: 0808 802 0300
- Protection Against Stalking: Kent based support for victims of stalking and harassment, through provision of information, advice, risk identification and safety planning. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org