Lifting voices against
online harassment
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Glossary of Terms
There are many forms of online harassment and abusers use a range of tactics and malicious behaviours that often overlap. The glossary on this page combines definitions from Women’s Media Centre and Pen America .
Trigger Warning
This page references sexual and gender-based violence that individuals may find triggering, shocking or upsetting. This content may not be appropriate for younger ages.
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One that is associated with another as a helper; a person or group that provides assistance and support
One who is present but not taking part in a situation or event
Cross-Platform Harassment
When a  harasser, or group of harassers, deliberately sabotages or invades multiple online spaces for the purposes of harassing a target
An umbrella term (like “online harassment”) meant to encompass a number of harassing online behaviours. Like physical bullying, “cyberbullying” may involve threats, embarrassment or humiliation in an online setting
Cyber Mob Attacks
When a large group (of hundreds, sometimes thousands) gathers online to try to collectively shame, harass, threaten, or discredit a target. This can happen on one platform or across multiple platforms (known as cross-platform harassment)
Cybersexism (or Cybermisogyny)
Gendered abuse targeted at women and girls online. It incorporates sexism, racism, religious prejudice, homophobia and transphobia
In a legal context, “cyberstalking” is the prolonged use (a “course of conduct”) of online harassment intended “to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate” a target
A form of direct harassment against people from the LGBTQIA community in which a target’s former name is revealed against their wishes for the purposes of harm
This happens when a person, or sometimes organized groups, deliberately flood social media and review sites with negative and defamatory information about another person
Deepfakes use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to develop images, videos and even the voices of real people from scratch. They are used to create fake events from political speeches to the creation of non-consensual pornographic content
Denial of Service (DoS) attacks
DoS is a cyberattack to make a website or network unavailable to its users. It can temporarily or indefinitely disrupt internet service by overwhelming a system with data, resulting in the web server crashing or becoming inoperable
Doxing, or Doxxing, is short for “dropping docs”. It is a tactic where someone’s personal information is published in an attempt to harass, intimidate, extort, stalk, or steal the identity of a target. Sensitive information can include phone numbers,  home addresses, personal photos, employment information, email addresses, and family members’ personal information
Electronically Enabled Financial Abuse
The use of the internet and other forms of technology to exert financial pressure on a target, usually a woman involved in intimate partner abuse. This might include for example, denying access to online accounts, manipulating credit information to create negative scores and identity theft
False Accusations of Blasphemy
Women face online threats globally, but they run a unique risk in conservative religious countries where blasphemy is against the law and where honor killings are a serious threat. Accusing someone of blasphemy can become, itself, an act of violence
Name-calling is common online. Gendered harassment however involves the use of words, insults, profanity and images to communicate hostility towards girls and women because they are women. Typically harassers resort to words and commentary based on women’s physical appearances
Gender-based Slurs or Harassment
Name-calling is common online. Gendered harassment however involves the use of words, insults, profanity and images to communicate hostility towards girls and women because they are women. Typically harassers resort to words and commentary based on women’s physical appearances
Google Bombing
The deliberate optimization of malicious information and web sites online so that when people search for a target they immediately see defamatory content
Grooming and Predation
Online grooming is when a person uses social media to deliberately cultivate an emotional connection with a child in order to sexually abuse or exploit that child
Hacking is the catch-all term for any type of misuse of a computer to break the security of another computing system or account to steal data, corrupt systems or files.
Hate Speech and Online Threats
Hate speech has no uniform legal definition. Online, this means that every social media platform has its own unique definition. As a baseline however, hate speech is language or imagery that denigrates, insults, threatens, or targets an individual or groups of people on the basis of their identity - gender, race, colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits
The act of interfering with the outcome or course a condition or process (to prevent harm)
Image-Based Sexual Abuse (also known as Non-Consensual Photography, Revenge Porn, and Cyber Exploitation)
Non-consensual pornography - or revenge porn, as it’s commonly called - is the distribution of private, sexually explicit images or videos of individuals without their consent

NOTE: The term 'revenge porn' is problematic because it wrongly implies that the victim has done something to deserve revenge. It also categorises their photographs as pornographic, when they may not have been intended that way. That's why we prefer the term 'image-based abuse'
Identity Theft/ Online Impersonation (or Impersonation Trolling)
This is when harassers create hoax accounts by using someone's images and name to post offensive or inflammatory content. The intent is to defame and discredit you by making others believe the fake content is attributed to you

Impersonation trolling can also happen when a harasser impersonates someone you know in order to offend or hurt you

Message Bombing
Message bombing is the intentional flooding of a person’s or institution’s phone or email accounts with messages meant to limit or block a user’s access to a device’s operating system or platform
Online Sexual Harassment
Online sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of sexual misconduct on digital platforms
Rape Videos
Videos of rapes in progress that are subsequently used to shame or extort or are sold as non-consensual porn
Retaliation Against Supporters of Victims
Online abusers will often harass/threaten to harass their target’s family members, friends, employers or community of supporters
Sexual Objectification
Harassers frequently objectify their targets, including using manipulated photographs and sexually explicit descriptions of their bodies. Girls and women’s photographs are often used without their consent and manipulated so that they appear in pornographic scenes or used in memes
Sexting/Abusive Sexting
Sexting is the consensual electronic sharing of naked or sexual photographs. This is different, however, from the non-consensual sharing of the same images in violation of privacy and consent that accompanies the sharing of images without the subject’s consent
Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion
Shock and Grief Trolling
Targeting vulnerable people by using the names and images of lost ones to create memes, websites, fake Twitter accounts or Facebook pages
A form of gender-based bullying often targeting teenage girls. Slut-shaming, stalking, the use of non-consensual photography and sexual surveillance frequently overlap, amplifying impact on targets
Spying and Sexual Surveillance
Women are frequently illegally (and legally) surveilled. This happens in their apartments; in changing rooms; department stores; supermarket bathrooms; on public stairways and subway platforms; in sports arenas and locker rooms; in police stations and in classrooms while they teach
Stalking and Stalking by Proxy
Criminal activity consisting of the repeated following and harassing of another person, and via a third party
Swatting occurs when harassers place a hoax call to deliberately trick authorities into responding to a false emergency situation at a specific address. They might include the use of weapons and possibility of being killed or hurt. This is one of the rarer but more serious consequences of online harassment and is a popular tactic among online harassers in the gaming community

The term comes from “SWAT” (Special Weapons and Tactics), a branch of the US police that uses militarized techniques, equipment and firearms to breach targeted sites
While not traditionally thought of as a form of online harassment and abuse, trafficking involves multiple types of electronically-enabled abuse. Social media is used by traffickers to sell people whose photographs they share, without their consent, often including photographs of their abuse of women as an example to others

Trolling is defined as the repetitive posting of inflammatory or hateful comments online by an individual whose intent is to seek attention, intentionally harm a target, cause trouble and/or controversy, and/or join up with a group of trollers who have already commenced a trolling campaign

There are three main types of trolling:

Concern trolling - demeaning comments masked as constructive feedback, designed to undercut you

Dogpiling: A group of trolls work together to overwhelm a target with threats, slurs, insults, meant to shame, silence, discredit, or drive a target offline

Bot trolling: Bot accounts can be automated accounts controlled by a code or an app in order to impart a particular agenda or individual accounts set up with the intention of mimicking real users (known as “sockpuppet” accounts). Bot accounts can be used for promoting propaganda and misinformation and to amplify hate or defamation against targeted individuals
Rape and death threats frequently coincide with sexist, racist commentary
Unsolicited Pornography
Sending unsolicited pornography, violent rape/porn gifs or photographs in which a target’s photograph has been sexualized

A person who sees abuse or a crime happen