Online Harassment Field Manual

Based on extensive research and interviews with writers, journalists, technology experts, editors, newsrooms, and advocacy groups, PEN America’s first-of-its-kind Online Harassment Field Manual equips and empowers writers, journalists, and all those active online with practical tools and tactics to defend against online hate and harassment. The Field Manual offers a one-stop shop of advice, guidance, and resources on cyber-stalking, doxing, hateful speech, and other forms of digital harassment.

In fall 2017, PEN America launched its Online Harassment Survey of writers and journalists to assess the impact of online abuse on writers’ professional lives, personal lives, health and wellness, and freedom of expression. Two-thirds of those targeted by cyber harassment reported severe reactions to their online abuse, including refraining from publishing their work, deleting social media accounts, and fears for personal safety. More than a third reported avoiding certain topics in their writing. These results underscore the threat that online harassment poses for free speech.

With those concerns in mind, we’ve taken up the challenge of fortifying writers and journalists—for whom online engagement is a professional imperative—with the best available methods and means to protect themselves and secure their own freedom to write. We also offer recommendations directed to employers, tech companies, and law enforcement on the roles they need to play to prevent online harassment from enforcing silence. While the content is geared toward writers, much of the advice and techniques discussed are relevant to anyone confronting hostility online.

Field Manual highlights include:

  • A number of first-hand accounts of online harassment and its aftermath
  • Step-by-step guides for enhancing cyber security and preventing doxing
  • Ideas for leveraging online writing communities to combat online harassment
  • Tips for combating hateful speech with counterspeech
  • Guidelines for allies and witnesses interested in intervening in online harassment
  • Best practices for employers of writers and journalists to improve institutional support during episodes of online abuse
  • Information about online harassment and the law
  • An online harassment glossary with proposed responses

For more information about online harassment and free expression, check out our blog, “Writers and Online Harassment: Evidence of a Chilling Effect,” also featured in the Columbia Journalism Review.