Historians have the right to expect that discussion of their work as historians will be conducted in a civil manner, without the harassment and intimidation that mars much of public life in a digital age. In recent years that right has been repeatedly violated by those who put in the place of reasoned debate the brutalities of hate speech; the terror of online threats; and the malice of doxing, trolling and other cyber-attacks.
We offer the following suggestions as a guide to AHA members who fear that they may become or have become targets of online harassment.
Strengthen the security of your email account, your social media accounts, your computer and your phone. Security needs vary, so consider consulting a cyber-security expert.
Regularly monitor your online information, including information you've made available through personal website, message boards and other postings.
Ask your employer to establish and/or review security protocols staff members should follow.
Familiarize yourself with the resources your employer provides to those facing on-line harassment.
Build a community of friends and colleagues you can turn to for help should you become a target of harassment.
Steps to take when harassment begins
Immediately report to your local police department any threat you believe to be credible.
Block the harassers. Do not engage with them.
Activate your community of friends and colleagues to do things such as screen emails and provide other support.
Inform your supervisor (for faculty members your department chair and/or dean), your employer's security and IT offices, and any other relevant offices. Insist that they deploy the institution's resources in your defense.
Report the harassment to the platforms on which they appear.
We recognize that all employers of historians are not alike and tailor processes to their needs. Therefore, there are detailed suggestions in the links below.
The Wikipedia entry on "Cyberstalking" provides some definitions and links to information about legislation in various states.
PEN America has created a detailed and comprehensive "Online Harassment Field Manual" much of which is relevant for academics.
The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School collects articles from various outlets on online harassment, some of which provide useful information about what to do if you are being harassed.
Women scholars' experiences with online harassment and abuse includes links to publications that came out of a Canadian SSHRC supported research project.