May 28 2020 GM

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Community Updates

  • One of the participants highlighted the fact that most of the COVID-19 resources that are being shared, are focusing on privileged communities with constant Internet connection, available and usable devices, or have ideal resources for remote working. It will be interesting to hear practical solutions which are being used by other people working in developing countries where Internet itself is regarded a privilege by many as it's either pricey or is not even close to their immediate needs during this difficult time.


Topic: Trolls and Bullying on the Internet

During this Glitter Meetup, we share advice, tips and resources for dealing with trolls and attacks online, and we analyze what groups are targeted in several regions.

If you want to learn more ways to protect yourself against the bullying online, the Totem Project has released a free online course, led by IWMF and Digital Safety experts, to help journalists identify and prepare for online harassment, abuse and threats.


What do people think about open source and decentralized platforms and their response to trolls?

  • One participant says that the best constituent relationship database is one that the team actually uses. They're useful for keeping track of funding deadlines, similar tech, and partnerships.
  • Dealing with data brokers can be really exhausting. Some allow you to request the removal of your profile through submitting a request. With others, you have to manually send an email. There are dozens and the entire process. You can also pay a service to remove yourself from the data broker's database but it is very costly.


What is the best advice you give or have gotten, regarding dealing with trolls online?

  • Make sure you scrub as much personal information you can online about you. For example, can people find your home address
  • Ignore the trolls (don’t engage with them), do not feed them (don’t entertain them). Especially if you’re a journalist. Most of the trolls are just attention seekers, who are looking for relevance on their platform.
  • In the same line of ignoring bullies, it is good to block them and report them.
  • Maybe have two profiles - your personal one and your work one, and maybe your work one has a different name.
  • Enlist allies to explain to people that yes, this is a threat, and this isn’t something paranoiac. Usually, you have enough documentation to show that this is a serious issue that makes people feel unsafe online and sometimes offline too.


In your region of the world, who do you think has to deal with trolls the most? Is there a specific profile? Also, do you come across this problem a lot in your work?

  • In the USA, women of color may experience it the most, and, if they are journalists or professionals, even worse. One good example is Michelle Ferrier, she was a journalist in Florida and the racism she went through was insane. That’s why she started Trollbusters, to help with this problem!
  • In Zimbabwe, political-activist women are the ones who really have to deal with so many trolls, especially if they oppose the ruling government. Right now, there is a case in Zimbabwe where three female opposition leaders were abducted, abused and released now there are facing charges of arranging an unsanctioned demonstration against the government.
  • In other places, we see that the people who suffer trolling the most are journalists speaking against the government; citizens and celebrities taking a stand, and students belonging to particular universities. Rape threats and death threats are a normal thing on Facebook and Instagram.


When you get harassed online, it can be psychologically jarring. What advice have you gotten or do you give to folks experiencing this for the first time?

  • Don't be discouraged if mental health providers don't know what you're talking about or try to minimize your distress. Some of them don't keep up with the news.
  • It is good to take some time off to strategize and regroup mentally. Most of the time, people don’t anticipate such trolling and negativity. So sometimes taking time off online and restrategizing to anticipate/schedule the trolling.
  • You have to understand that the phenomenon of trolling, especially coordinated and targeted ones, are a form of psychological abuse. Trolls, even the lame ones who are one-off and act alone are good at predicting and recognizing your emotional suffering. When it's coordinated, the oppressors know exactly which buttons to push. Since women are largely the victims of persistent and ugly harassment online, the abusers know to rely on sexually perverse tactics and threat of violence.
  • If you can trust someone with your social media account, it's good to have someone look for threats while you take a break.


What advice do you have for young leaders/activists/journos, that you wish you knew at their age.

  • Limit the amount of information that you share online especially when you know the profile or fight that you want to take up.
  • Take time to really do a real threat/risk analysis of your work. Understand all risks associated and come up with strategies around them.
  • Work on your allies network that gives you a support system.
  • Be prepared for the worst and always remind yourself why you started. Activism is not a profession it's a calling.
  • You have to think of the trolls as faceless, aimless bodies. They are nothing and no one. You cannot humanize them, even if they have dehumanized you. They become merely numbers, especially when it comes at such a high volume. You should not have to participate in your own dehumanization by engaging with them.
  • It can be useful to save and take screenshots of the trolling. We've been somewhere successful and identifying the government officials and getting them banned from social media, but one should always do this with a group. It's also a whack-a-mole situation but at least you can start documenting both the people and potentially state actors who are engaging in trolling.