Cyber-bullying takes many forms. StopCyberbullying.org describes it as:
When a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.
A study by the National Crime Prevention Council suggested that cyber-bullying affects almost half of all American teenagers. But it’s not just children who are at risk. Because it’s so easy to register an account on Twitter (and to do so anonymously), it’s also very easy to use that account for malice.
This would include attempting to hurt or embarrass another individual by:
- Sending provocative images
- Making overtly sexual remarks
- The use of hate speech or racism
- Making threats
- Disclosing personal information
- Faking or sharing images without consent
Unfortunately, Twitter’s abuse policy is pretty lacking. Their TOS do not directly address abuse, but the official Twitter rules have a specific section for harassment and violent threats. What the organisation needs is a designated @abuse account, and ideally a checks and balances system for registration.
If you feel you are being bullied or victimised by another individual on Twitter, there are some steps you can take.
- Block the account. This won’t prevent them from maintaining their behavioural pattern, but at least you won’t have to see it.
- Report the user to Twitter via a help ticket. Be thorough, and include examples linking back to specific tweets where possible.
- Consider sending a tweet to @delibus and @safety reporting the user
- Make a backup of all abusive tweets using your favourite image software (i.e., Photoshop) as things can be easily removed by the other user. Your backup won’t be proof alone, but Twitter should be able to match-up your records with their own, even if the tweets have been deleted.
- Highlight the abuse to somebody else that you trust. This person can later function as a witness.
While not reporting abuse in the hope that it will eventually ‘go away’ is not the best course of action, completely ignoring the abuser is an excellent choice. By not feeding the trolls, you can prevent an attacker from getting the things they typically desire, such as validation, a larger audience and even confirmation of the things they are saying. It also helps to reduce the chances of anything becoming public, primarily because it doesn’t become part of your own Twitter timeline.
That said, there can also be some merit in exposing the person publically on Twitter. This is not always ideal, certainly when your personal information has been exposed, but in some instances it can lead to an immediate end to the abuse, as well as providing a warning to others within your network.
Of course, even if the abuse stops, either because the other user gives up or Twitter suspends their account, thisÂ doesn’tÂ prevent them immediately opening up another profile and starting over. If this happens, and until Twitter radically improves their blocking and safety measures, your only option may be to consider protecting your status updates. While this puts the social part of social media somewhat in jeopardy, this is a realistic solution if you wish to maintain a strong level of privacy on Twitter.