Guide to Combatting Social Media Trolls and Online Harassment

Call 9-1-1 if you feel you or your family are in imminent danger. 

Online harassment can occur when digital technologies (social media, email, text message, gaming platforms or other messaging services) are used to post unwanted, inaccurate, or threatening content specifically targeting an individual or group. Behaviors that could potentially be considered online harassment include remarks that a reasonable person would perceive as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting or seriously terrorizing of the person and that serves no legitimate purpose which can include impersonation, threats, revealing personal information, cyber stalking, or sending unsolicited sexual messages or images. 

Checklist for Supervisors/Leaders of Employees/Students Experiencing Online Harassment

Actions to take if you are a target of online harassment 

Step 1 - Assess the threat

Call the police. If you or your family (or another identifiable group)  appear to be in imminent danger, call 911 immediately! If you receive threats that you feel are serious but not imminent, call the UC Davis Police (Davis non-emergency line 530-752-1727 / Sacramento Campus non-emergency line 916-734-2555).

Step 2 - Gather evidence

Document it. Take screenshots of potentially harassing messages or posts and save the unique links to posts or messages in a separate document. Be sure to grab information about the user or handle names, their real name, the links to their profiles and any other information about the source of the harassment. This information will be useful to your department chair, IET, case workers or police units who may be assisting you and could be used as evidence.

Step 3 - Get support

  • For faculty - Connect with your administrative leader (department chair, the dean’s office, lab lead, other) and the communications teams from your college. Additional guidance for supervisors and faculty leads supporting someone who is a target of online harassment can be found here.
  • For staff and student employees - Reach out and alert your supervisor right away, especially if the harassment may be in relation to your work. Together, you and your supervisor will assess and follow the guidance for supervisors posted here.
  • Contact our Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (HDAPP) to report the incident. 
    • Davis Campus
      • 530-747-3864 (Davis Main Line)   
      • 530-747-3865 (Davis Anonymous Call Line)                                              
    • Sacramento Campus
      • 916-734-3417 (Sacramento Main Line)
      • 916-734-2255 (Sacramento Anonymous Call Line)
  • Ask for help before responding to media. If you get contacted by the media, you are not obligated to return the call. Reach out immediately to the News and Media Relations team at Strategic Communications who will help you sort through the next steps at 530-752-1930 or news@ucdavis.edu.
  • Ask for your personal information to be temporarily removed from the campus directory and webpages and social media. You can ask for your contact information to be removed from the campus directory, department webpages or even have posts removed from campus social media accounts if necessary. Staff and faculty should work with campus IET for help with directory listings. Students can request a confidential registry listing through the Office of the Registrar. Additionally, if you have other webpages (such as squarespace, wordpress, etc) turn off commenting features and remove any features that allow commenting, emailing or contact. These features can always be turned back on after the online attack passes. 
  • Limit classroom disruptions. Online attacks can also have impacts on your students or classes.  For example, someone may attend your class and attempt to record. You have the right to prohibit unauthorized audio/video recording in your classroom and may report the violation to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. If you feel like your class may be disrupted, be sure to connect with your department chair to discuss arrangements. Academic Affairs and OSSJA are also available for support and assistance in this area and help to navigate through situations where the Academic Code of Conduct might be breached. 
  • Additional support resources.  You don’t have to go through this alone and we have support resources to help you navigate several different situations. 
  • Davis Campus Police
    • EMERGENCY: 911 or 530-752-1230
    • Non-Emergency: 530-752-1727
  • Sacramento Campus Police
    • EMERGENCY: 911 or 916-734-2555
    • Non-Emergency: 916-734-2555
  • Harassment and Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program (HDAPP)
    • Davis Campus
      • 530-747-3864 (Davis Main Line)   
      • 530-747-3865 (Davis Anonymous Call Line)                                              
    •  Sacramento Campus
      • 916-734-3417 (Sacramento Main Line)
      • 916-734-2255 (Sacramento Anonymous Call Line)
    • Online: Report a hate or bias incident 
    • Email: hdapp@ucdavis.edu
  • Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs (OSSJA)
    • 530-752-1128
    • ossja@ucdavis.edu
  • Academic and Staff Assistance Program (ASAP)
    • UC Davis employees - call (530) 752-2727
    • UC Davis Health Employees - call (916) 734-2727
  • Student Health and Counseling Services 
    • Students can schedule mental health appointments online through Health-e-Messaging, or by calling 530-752-0871.

Step 4 - Secure your social media boundaries

  • Revisit your privacy settings. Social media platforms all have privacy settings that can help mitigate the impact of strangers who can contact you or post comments. These settings give you the power to choose who can see your profile, who can message you, who can tag you and how much information is shared from social media publicly.  Each platform is different and privacy settings change frequently. Visit the specific social media sites for the most up to date information, linked below.
    Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | LinkedIn | Snapchat | Discord | Reddit | WhatsApp | WeChat
  • Change your passwords. As an extra precaution, change your passwords to new and secure passwords to preempt any hacks. Enable two-factor authentication if you don’t already have it activated.
  • Take a social media break. Trolling attacks are typically intense but brief. Engaging with these comments tends to add fire to the flame and it’s best to not engage. It can help to take a social media break by temporarily removing social media account apps from your phone, which can alleviate distressing notifications or the urge to check social media.
  • Mute and Block. Block and mute. All social media platforms have the ability to mute or block users from accessing your social media content. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – you can choose to “mute” an individual or a post. Muting is a great option if you don’t want to completely remove that person from accessing your social channels but want to silence notifications and conversations from them. Muting does not unfriend or block a user. You also have the ability to block users that you don’t want accessing your content or leaving comments. On Twitter, you can take advantage of community sourced block lists of known bots and harassers. You do not owe anyone an explanation about why you’ve blocked or unfriended them. (Note: University-run accounts need to go through a different and official process and involves different considerations before blocking or muting can occur). 
  • Report it to the platform. Each social media platform has a process for reporting users who are engaging in harassing behaviors, making threats or impersonating you. Most platforms act quickly on these reports, especially if they receive more than one report. Once verified that the offending actions are against platform harassment policies, the platform will take action to delete the user comments and accounts per their policies. In extreme cases, users can be banned outright from using the platforms. Activate your support network and ask them to also file a report on the content or profile in question. These reports are also used for any police case filings or warrants.
    Twitter reporting | Facebook reporting | Instagram reporting | TikTok reportingLinkedIn reporting | Discord reporting | SnapChat reporting | WeChat reportingWhatsApp reporting
  • When the storm has passed, do a Google audit. Once the attack has passed, do a google search on your name to understand what records google has picked up around your name or the issue at hand. This is helpful information to know and there are some actions you can take, such as claiming your Google profile (if eligible) that can help stabilize search results. It is not recommended to do this in the heat of the attack - it can be very overwhelming.