Twitter recently has added a new feature, where you can mute any account that doesn’t have verified profile information, like a photo, phone number or email address. This feature is particularly helpful for activists on Twitter. If you’ve ever tweeted about social justice issues, GamerGate, Trump, or any other political issues, you’d likely have come across an egg troll account that is specifically made to harass people.
This feature comes in particularly handy over the past few days, since I’ve tweeted about a counter-protest that’s happening in Toronto’s City Hall to unite against islamophobia. My Twitter account was mobbed by White Canadian nationalists. They were attacking me and writing about my activism on Twitter. This makes me feel very afraid for my own safety, and more importantly the safety of my family.
The fact is the US Muslim ban and the new US administration’s anti-Islam rhetoric is rippling over to Canada. And this hatred and bigotry is beginning to show Canada’s racist roots that still need to be treated.
I spoke to a representative from Amnesty International last week. And they advised me on not crossing the US border at this time for my own safety. Muslims are being detained, mistreated, and harassed on Canadian soil. This is real, and non of this is “fake” news.
If you’re a social justice activist, or you want to get into this work, my biggest advice to you is to take care of yourself, first and foremost. I have my Twitter account now locked, because the harassment and abuse is very intolerable. And no one should have to go through this. I also suggest you take appropriate measures to communicate through private messaging apps. I was introduced to Signal actually by the Amnesty International representative, and quickly learned that several of my fellow news editors use it to communicate about their work. Here is a great article from Teen Vogue about how to keep your messages private.
Here are a list of things to think about if you’re an activist in the digital space:
- Take good care of yourself: Know when to take a break from it all, and give yourself time to focus on you, your mental and physical well-being. This is the most important thing to consider.
- Make sure you are connected with a supportive network: Having people to reach out to who know this work and how to handle difficult situations can be so helpful to keep you going in this line of work.
- Communicate using private messaging apps when organizing: Signal and Whatsapp are just a few examples.
- Block and report: do not engage with trolls. Use the block and report options liberally.
- Don’t be discouraged: You are making a difference.
Despite what racists want me to do, I will be attending today’s protest at City Hall with many other organizations uniting against anti-Islam groups that are currently on the rise in our country. What they want, is for us to be fearful and silent. But they will not win.