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Managing Social Media Harassment

This content was graciously provided by the University of Iowa.

According to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, 41 percent of adults report being the subject of harassing behavior online, and 66 percent have witnessed harassing behavior directed at others. Responding to online harassment can be challenging, even scary if the harassment becomes threatening.


The Office of Communications and Marketing and the Provost’s Office recommends the following five options.

1. Ignore them

The goal of social media agitators is to elicit a response. The good news is that even the most persistent users typically move on if you ignore them long enough.

2. Mute them

If you are tired of seeing what someone is saying about you on Twitter, mute them. This can be a good first step. The harassing party is not notified that you’ve muted them, and you can blissfully ignore their hateful comments. If you are worried their comments may become threatening, ask a friend or colleague to check your feed on your behalf.

3. Block them

Several social media platforms allow you to selectively prevent others from following you, seeing your posts, or commenting on your content. Please note that when you block someone, they are typically notified of the block and may choose to criticize you on their own channels.

4. Respond

If someone is sharing misinformation about you or your work, consider sharing a brief response to correct the falsehoods. This will likely result in additional posts from the harassing party, but it does give you a platform to set the record straight.

If you choose to respond, make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Stick to undisputable facts that are not open to interpretation. Users who harass others are not interested in having rational or open-minded conversations. Keep responses short, concise, and above all factual. Correct inaccuracies and move on.
  2. Maintain your dignity. Be polite, professional, and unemotional. Resist becoming defensive or fighting fire with fire. You will only appear combative.

5. Record and report

If you feel at all threatened, contact the proper authorities and keep a record of the hostile or threatening posts. Take and save screenshots in case you need to file a police report or take legal action. Contact the Department of Public Safety for questions or resources.

Additional Resources

Faculty Support and Resources Guide

The Faculty Support and Resources Guide is designed to assist the campus community in responding to situations in which faculty members are targeted by individuals or groups outside of the university based on the content of the faculty member’s scholarship, teaching, clinical care, and/or service. The guide addresses potential concerns in such situations and informs the campus about resources available to assist individual faculty members, department chairs, and other administrators.

More Information

For more information, please contact the Office of Communications and Marketing at