How to protect yourself from online harassment — and prepare for future attacks : Life Kit If you're posting frequently on social media, there's a chance that someday, one of those posts may make you a target of online harassment. Digital security expert Harlo Holmes and artist and independent researcher Ra'il I'nasah Kiam share tips on what to do if that happens — and how to tighten up your privacy online.

How to deal with online harassment — and protect yourself from future attacks

How to deal with online harassment — and protect yourself from future attacks

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Carlo Cadenas for NPR
3D illustration of a phone with a lock on the screen surrounded by concentric circles that have smiley faces on them. A hand reaches into the circles and unlocks the phone. Outside of the circles, menacing eyes look at the phone.
Carlo Cadenas for NPR

If you're posting on social media, there's a chance that someday, one of those posts may make you a target of online harassment. The harassment can range from ugly comments to physical threats against your safety, which may cause great emotional distress.

Harlo Holmes, director of digital security and chief information security officer at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a free speech advocacy organization, and Ra'il I'nasah Kiam, an artist and independent researcher who has personally experienced online attacks, talk to Life Kit about what to do when harassment strikes. They share steps you can take to protect your information and your sense of wellbeing while using the internet. Here are some links to helpful resources online:

  • Identify your situation. There are many kinds of online harassment, from cyberbullying to hacking to phishing. PEN America, a human rights organization, has a glossary of terms that can help you identify what you're going through — and tips on what to do in each situation. For example, if someone is impersonating you online, the group suggests reporting the harassment to the platform on which it appears. PEN America also has guidelines on when to involve law enforcement. 
  • Take care of yourself emotionally if you become a target. Online harassment can make you feel anxious and distressed. This tip sheet from the anti-online harassment group Heartmob offers advice on how to deal with the mental health effects of being harassed: take a break from online spaces, talk about what happened with trusted friends and family — and remember you are not to blame. 
  • Protect yourself from future attacks by strengthening your online privacy. Make it difficult for hackers to access your accounts and personal information by practicing good "digital hygiene." That includes using complex and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and securing your messages with encrypted apps. This Life Kit guide on digital privacy has more tips.

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