If you have experienced online hate crime / speech, you are not alone. 66% of the LGBTI participants to the Safe To Be online survey (Safe To Be, 2018 – refer to survey) indicate having experienced an anti-LGBTI hate crime and/or hate speech in the 5 years prior to taking part in the survey.
Just like anyone else, you have a right to be who you are and to live without fear of violence, abuse or harassment, both online and offline. If you experience hate speech or hate crime online, remember:
If you have suffered online hate, you may be experiencing a whole range of emotions. Feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, stress, fear, or even depression are not uncommon. On top of that, the feeling of being powerless to do anything to change the situation might aggravate the situation even more. It is therefore important to realize there are things you can do.
Although your first instinct might be to respond instantaneously, or conversely to delete your account/post, it is important to try and take a step back.
Before you do anything, take a step back from the situation (and your computer). Think about which steps you want to take. If you can, talk to someone and go over possible actions. Remember that non-action is one of the viable options. There are no perfect solutions. These problems aren’t easily solved. There might be a group dimension, you might be limited in your options to respond by the platform, you may or may not know the abuser personally, or the abuse occured on a poorly-moderated platform.
Whatever the situation, remember that the decision to respond or not to respond directly to the abuse depends entirely on you. Your wellbeing is what matters the most. Think about what you need. See how resilient you feel, consider the specifics of the incident, and how much energy you want to put in it.
Choosing not to respond
Some people who have experienced regular online hate incidents feel themselves becoming armed against them over time*. They build resilience. Others choose to never engage at all, or only do so on specific platforms. If you don’t want to respond to an occurrence of online abuse for your own wellbeing, that is absolutely fine. Your personal limitations are uniquely yours and may even vary over time. It is not your responsibility to educate an aggressor or take a stand.
You might find you do have the resilience to respond, but choose not to for reasons related to the incident/aggressor. Sometimes a reaction is exactly what aggressors are looking for to feel empowered or get more traffic on their comment. You might find it a waste of your time and energy, or you might prefer to simply let it go.
Choosing to respond
Some people refuse to be silenced by their abuse, choosing to speak out and respond to the online aggression, either to stand up for themselves, to find some sort of closure to the situation, or because they feel resilient enough to try and set the aggressor straight so they don’t do this again to someone else**.
If you do choose to respond, make sure you don’t retaliate or seek revenge. This situation might escalate and cause a painful chain reaction. Respond in a way that doesn’t engage with the abuse and that removes yourself from the situation.
*96% of all survey participants who had experienced online hate crimes or speech, had experienced more than one incident, with 1 in 5 experiencing more than 100 incidents over the last 5 years. This shows that online anti-LGBTI hate crime is a common occurrence for many LGBTI individuals.
**26% of all survey participants who had experienced online hate crimes or speech increased their LGBTI activity online.
Unlike offline hate crimes, online hate can be captured, saved, and used as evidence. Whether or not you want to report to the police or another agency right now, it can be useful to keep a record of the incident or crime so you have a strong case to take action at a later date.
Seemingly one-off or trivial occurrences can sometimes multiply over time into a pattern of behaviour that is a criminal offence, such as stalking or harassment. In these cases, it is really useful to have evidence of all the instances to build a complete picture. When it comes to determining whether something is specifically a hate crime , you want to include every message or post that holds signs of the bias that prompted the offense (eg. derogatory words to describe you or another aspect of the LGBTI community).
It is best to document the abuse as it occurs, as the content or profile may later be removed by the abuser or the platform. If you find it difficult to keep a record of abuse like this, ask someone you trust to help you with this. Consider saving the abusive content somewhere you don’t have to see or open every day. Put it in a separate folder so it is accessible, but not overly present whenever you start up your computer.
Most online platforms have multiple options available that you can use to stop or mitigate the abuse.
whether the harassment is in an app, in texting, comments, or tagged photos, you can always block the aggressor.
Take the comment/post/photo/… offline
this won’t always be an option. But if it is, shutting the aggressor down by deleting their hateful content, can be seen as an act of active resistance. Silencing an aggressor is a powerful punitive tool. If you can -and want to- remove the abuse, consider taking a screenshot before you delete it. It might be useful evidence if you want to report the abuse (at a later date).
you can report the abuse to the platform. Threats of physical harm or death threats are criminal offences in most countries, which means you can contact the police.
Learn more in the section “How to report”.
If the situation escalated into stalking or persistent harassment, it might be useful to protect your accounts. If you have concerns about who can see your profiles, consider setting your accounts to private. Don’t use the same password in more than one place and never share your passwords with anyone. To help you manage strong and unique passwords, you can use a password manager such as Lastpass. The same principle applies for your phone – consider password protecting and/or encrypting it.
Another form of protection is Two Factor Authentication (2FA). This is a method of confirming your identity twice. This works by utilizing something you know (password) and a second step being something you have. An example of a second step is repeating back a code sent to your phone over SMS. Another example is using an authenticator on your phone, like Google Authenticator, which generates a six- to eight-digit one time password in addition to your usual login details.
Most websites like Facebook, Instagram,… allow this option to be enabled in your settings.
For more information on online self-defence, go to this website: https://ssd.eff.org/en/taxonomy/term/362/