Documenting An Attack

Journalists might not feel like documenting online abuse, especially when they are in the middle of a severe attack. However, documenting attacks can be important if you wish to pursue a legal case or show others, such as an editor or organization that defends freedom of expression, what is happening to you. 


Next Steps

Speak with your newsroom

If you work in a newsroom, ask if they have a policy for documenting online abuse. Ask if they have support in place to help you document attacks, for example colleagues who could help document abuse for you.


Create a process for documenting abuse

If you are a freelance journalist or your newsroom does not have policies in place, you can use your own method for documenting abuse. Create a spreadsheet to capture information, such as the date of the attack, the handle of your harasser, the platform it happened on, and whether you reported it to the tech company. Take screenshots, in case the reported content would be removed, by platforms or harassers themselves.


What attacks should you document?

It is not possible to document all abuse; instead, you should focus on documenting messages that you find particularly threatening or abusive. You should also document repeat attackers and online abusers that are not afraid to use their real name. 

Share With Your Network

Additional Resources

Learn more about documenting an attack with the following resources: 

  • PEN America

    A comprehensive guide detailing how to document online harassment.

  • Online SOS

    Practical checklist for journalists looking to document online abuse.

  • IWMF

    A self-paced online course on trolling with detailed steps for documenting abuse. Created with Free Press Unlimited’s Totem platform. Available in English, Spanish (español), French (français), and Arabic (عربى).