I'm being abused online - what can I do?
The rise of the internet – and social media – has seen a dramatic increase in online “trolls”. Anyone who is familiar with social media platforms will be aware that “trolling” is rife. In 2015, 25% of 13-18 year olds were victims of online abuse and five internet trolls are now convicted every day.
What can I do to help combat trolls?
- Don’t respond - One of the most important things to remember is not to respond to online trolls. This is exactly what they want and you run the risk of saying something that you shouldn’t in the heat of the moment.
- Be secure - Make sure your social media accounts are as secure and private as they can possibly be. This includes changing your passwords regularly, making your accounts private and ensuring only your verified friends see your posts. For more information on how to do this, click here. This will make it more difficult for people you don’t know to see what you post and contact you directly.
- Report – One of the easiest and quickest ways to deal with online trolls is to simply report and block them. You can do this on any of the major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Take a break – If you find yourself on the receiving end of constant abuse, taking a break from social media (as well as taking the above actions) could help you cope and will also increase the chances of the trolls moving on.
What does the law say?
At the moment, there are no specific laws pertaining to the use of the internet/social media, however the UK is set to introduce the very first online safety laws later this year.
Until then, all possible offences currently lie under either section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and/or section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and then, depending on the nature of the offence, are categorised and prosecuted under the applicable laws broken.
Guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service require the passing of a “high threshold” before the police will intervene in matters regarding social media. This means that an individual simply saying some unkind things online doesn’t currently constitute an offence and the police will not be able to take action. In these instances, we recommend you follow the advice given earlier (see “What can I do to help combat trolls?”).
However, if you have received a credible threat (one that you believe may be acted upon), or are the target of a “campaign of harassment”, you should certainly report this to the police as soon as possible – taking screenshots of the comments in case they are deleted.