Online abuse stifles free expression, threatens livelihoods, and undermines equity.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Online abuse shouldn’t be a given. Yet every day, users across social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter face rape and death threats, racial slurs, sexual harassment, doxing, and countless other abusive tactics—often in an effort to intimidate, discredit, or silence.
Online abuse restricts free speech, undermines equity and inclusion, threatens lives and livelihoods, and erodes mental and physical health. It disproportionately impacts women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, and religious and ethnic minorities. And it places writers, journalists, and other creative and media professionals in an increasingly untenable double bind: face relentless harassment or step back from the very platforms you need to do your job.
We’re SICK OF THIS S#!T. But there are solutions.
For years, PEN America has equipped writers and journalists with strategies and resources to defend themselves and others through our Field Manual, in-person training seminars, and virtual events. Today, we’re asking you to join us to #FightOnlineAbuseNow.
Here’s what we can do together
No one should have to face online abuse alone
Jordan, a blogger in Tennessee who writes about health and racial justice, often faces online abuse for their identity. “I think a majority of [online harassers] would not come after me if I were not seen as a Black woman,” says Jordan, who requested to be identified only by their first name. “Almost every demographic at one time or the other comes after Black women.”
Three ways social media companies can disarm abusive users
“You can’t have free expression of ideas if people have to worry that they’re going to get doxed or they’re going to get threatened,” said Mary Anne Franks, president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and professor of law at the University of Miami. “So if we could focus the conversation on how it is that we can create the conditions for free speech . . . Free speech for reporters. Free speech for women. Free speech for people of color. Free speech for people who are targeted offline . . . that is the conversation we have to have.”
Facebook and Twitter: End the excuses
At this point, there’s no excuse for online abuse. In PEN America’s report, we lay out concrete, actionable changes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media companies need to make ASAP to the design of their platforms to #FightOnlineAbuseNow.
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Online abuse stifles free speech and is making social media a toxic environment. PEN America is leading the charge to #FightOnlineAbuseNow. Sign up now for updates (you can unsubscribe at any time).
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You’re not alone
If you’re facing or witnessing online abuse and need help, check out our resources. And if online abuse has made you hesitate to use your voice or driven you off a platform—and you feel empowered to share your story with us—click the button below.
We won’t publish anything without your consent, nor will we share any of your information or anything that could help identify you.