The growth of the internet has provided people with more access to new platforms for communication, trade and obtaining information but it also enables people to access one another, and sometimes this happens for the wrong reasons. 

The term online violence is used to describe acts of bullying or threatening people with acts of violence which include physical, sexual, psychological and economic harm. The issue of online violence is especially heightened during the election period as people, including journalists, are targeted by individuals or groups who have a different opinion or agenda. 

Being a victim of online violence cannot be deciphered easily because it comes in different forms. The UNHCR provides these examples:  

  • Doxxing: The act of publishing someone’s personal information online without their consent. 
  • Online sexual violence:  Receiving unsolicited sexual requests or images, sharing explicit images or videos of you without your consent or coercing you into sexual activity through threats, intimidation or manipulation.
  • Grooming: The process of building an emotional connection to exploit or extort the victims. 
  • Sextortion: A form of sexual violence that involves using sexual images or threats to extort something from the victim. 
  • Hacking: Unauthorised access or manipulation of a computer and other electronic devices. It can be done for many reasons, such as to steal personal information, get access to bank accounts, or spread malicious software.

READ: Pegasus: The real enemy of free speech and journalism

Protecting yourself and your assets from online violence is paramount, especially for journalists who have sensitive information or must protect their sources. Here are some steps to consider if you suspect you have fallen victim to online abuse.

  1. Stop communication with the person. Block them from platforms and ensure they can’t reach you online. 
  2. Save the information on your devices by taking screenshots or saving text messages or email threads. 
  3. Reach out to someone who can support you and help you deal with the issue objectively. 
  4. If it is work-related, inform your managers to help you deal with it professionally and ensure that you don’t have to interact with the individual in the future. 
  5. If you suspect your accounts have been hacked, block or change your bank account details and inform your bank
  6. Use two-factor log-on encryption for all your digital platforms including email 
  7. Avoid sharing real-time location information and switch off all location sharing on your Smartphone and laptop