Dealing with abuse and hate crime online

Social media can be a hugely valuable tool for connecting and providing peer support amongst people with a visible difference. But it can also be a very difficult environment.

Over 40% of people with a visible difference have had negative experiences online and one in ten say they are repeatedly harassed on social media.

Just because abuse is happening online, doesn’t make it any less real. It’s important to report abuse that happens on social media, and the same methods of reporting to the police can be used whether you’ve experienced a hate crime, or a hate crime incident, online or in the street.

You can also report abuse direct to the social media platforms to help stop this behaviour and limit the perpetrators ability to do so again or to someone else.

If a friend or loved one seeks your help with an abusive online situation, listen to what they have to say and take their situation seriously.

Don’t be a bystander

If you see someone being abused online, don’t look the other way. While it can be tempting to retaliate against the abuser with hurtful words, this is usually what they want you to do. Instead, reach out to your friend or family member with positive words to remove the attention from the abuser.

Report content

When an account is harassing or threatening, report it. It will take a few steps, but your report will help make the online world a better place.

    • report what’s happened on the site or app;
    • block the people being abusive;
    • take screenshots of abusive messages, but don’t reply to them;
    • if you need emotional support contact the Changing Faces Support & Information Line.

We’ve summarised what to do if you experience abuse or harassment, sometimes called trolling, on these key social media platforms. New technology is being developed all the time so do check the links for updates.


What you tweet on Twitter is public unless you’ve set your account to private. This means that anyone can read, retweet and respond to anything you tweet.

Changing your privacy settings is a good way to stop people tweeting or replying to you. It can also help if people are direct messaging you. Find out more about changing your privacy settings.

What to do if you’re getting abusive messages:
– Unfollow anyone who is harassing you by going to their profile and pressing the ‘following’ button;
– Block anyone who is harassing you by going to their profile, pressing the 3 dots (on Android) or the gear (on iOS) in the top right hand corner and selecting block;
– Blocking someone stops them from contacting or following you. You can always unblock them if you want to in the future.

If someone creates new accounts to keep harassing you, then you can make a report to Twitter.


The way to report abuse changes depending on what you’re reporting. You can find out how to report abuse on the Facebook help page or by reading Facebook information on reporting and blocking.

Report abusive behaviour

On the Facebook app:
– select the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the post or photo;
– select to leave feedback or report;
– if you have to leave feedback, select to report the post afterwards;
– you’ll be asked some questions about why you’re making a report.

You can also fill out Facebook’s form and can select what best describes what you want to report. Facebook won’t tell the person you’re reporting that it was you.

To report something on Facebook Messenger, in the app:
– go to the conversation you want to report;
– press the ‘i’ symbol in the top right corner;
– press “Something’s wrong”;
– select what’s happening;
– after you’ve left feedback, you can also select to report or block the person.

You can also make a report to Facebook by filling in this form even if you don’t have an account. Reports are anonymous. Facebook will tell you in your Support Inbox if they’ve been able to help.

Have a look at Facebook’s page on privacy to change your privacy settings and control who sees your profile and posts.

You can also hide someone on Facebook. This means that you won’t see their posts in your newsfeed, but you’ll still be friends with them.


Instagram is automatically set to public so that anyone can see your images – even if you don’t know them. Setting your profile to private can help to stop harassment. Find out more about changing your privacy settings..

Report something you find threatening or abusive

In the app:
– press the three dots in the top right hand corner above the picture or video;
– select ‘Report’
– select the reasons you want to report the image.

If someone is being abusive to you via direct message, you can also report that. In the app:
– open the direct message from the person you want to report;
– press the ‘i’ in the top right-hand corner;
– select ‘Report’ and enter the reasons you want to report them
– you can also block the person by pressing ‘Block User’.

Instagram won’t tell someone if they’ve been blocked. Once they are blocked, they won’t be able to find your profile, posts or story on Instagram. But they can still mention you using the ‘@’ sign. Changing your username can be a good way to make sure that they can’t mention it.

Find out more about reporting to Instagram.


Report a video

YouTube staff review reported videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A video can be reported at any time once uploaded to YouTube and then it is reviewed by YouTube staff. If no violations are found by the review team, no amount of reporting will change that and the video will remain on the site.

1. Go to the video you’d like to report.
2. Tap ‘More’ – the three vertical dots at the top of the video.
3. Tap the ‘Report’ flag.
4. Select the reason for reporting.

The “Report spam or abuse” link allows you to report spam comments left on videos you upload or watch. If enough users mark a comment as spam, it becomes hidden under a “Marked as Spam” link. By clicking the “Show link” you can see the comment again.

The video’s uploader has the ability to “unmark” a comment as spam.

1. Go to the comment you’d like to report.
2. Tap ‘More’ – the three vertical dots, below the comment.
3. Tap Report.
4. Select the reason for reporting.

Use the “Report spam or abuse” feature with caution. If you misuse it, you may be prohibited from using YouTube. If you believe a comment you made was marked as spam but you don’t believe it to be, you can contact the video’s uploader and ask them to reinstate your comment.

Report a live chat message

You can report inappropriate messages left on live streams.

1. Go to the message you’d like to report.
2. Tap ‘More’ – the three vertical dots, below the comment.
3. Tap ‘Report’.
4. Select the reason for reporting.

Flagging is a great way to report a video that you think violates the YouTube Community Guidelines, but sometimes you may need to report more than one piece of content or may wish to submit a more detailed report for review.

Using the reporting tool, you can highlight a user’s comments, videos and provide additional information about your concern. If you feel that you have been targeted for abuse, this tool is your best option to report content. Report abuse via the in-product reporting tool.


If someone is harassing you then you can report and block them. This can get them banned from using the app.

To report someone:
– go to the chat with the person you want to report;
– tap on the group or person’s name to open their profile;
– scroll down and press ‘Report.’

You can also block the person on this page. Blocking someone on messenger apps means they won’t be able to send you abusive messages. Usually the other person won’t know that you’ve blocked them. You’ll just appear offline when they look at their contacts.

There’s more guidance on WhatsApp’s website.


Snaps automatically disappear once the person you sent them to has seen them. But they can still take screenshots and save them. That means that they’ll have a copy of the photo even after Snapchat deletes it.

Find out more information at the Snapchat website.

Make a report

If you receive an abusive or worrying message. It can help to take a screenshot so you’ve got a record. The person who messaged you will see if you’ve taken a screenshot, so it’s important to think about how they might react if they knew.

If someone’s bullying or harassing you, you can report that person to Snapchat.

To make a report:
– In the app, go to the person’s Snapchat account;
– Press the three dots or the cog wheel;
– Press ‘Report.’

To report a Snapchat or Snapchat Live Story that contains bullying content:
– Press and hold the snap or story;
– Press the flag in the bottom left hand corner;
– Select the reason you’re making a report;
– If you’re reporting bullying you might be asked to give more information, it’s important to explain as much as possible;
– After you’ve made the report you’ll be asked whether you would like to block the person, doing this can help to stop them upsetting you.

Block someone

Blocking someone on Snapchat will stop them from seeing your story or sending you snaps and chats. It can help if someone’s sending you abusive messages.

To block someone:
– In Snapchat, open the chat for the person you want to block;
– Press the three lines in the top left-hand corner;
– Press ‘Block’.

Tik Tok

Tik Tok is automatically set to public, which means that anyone can see what you live stream or the videos you post. Changing your account settings can help if you are experiencing abuse.

Tik Tok’s own Community Guidelines say that users should feel safe to express themselves without fear of being shamed, humiliated, bullied, or harassed, and that they do not tolerate abusive content or behaviour on the platform.

Make a report

To report a video or live stream:
– on the video, tap the share icon
tap Report
– select It’s Inappropriate
– choose the reason you’re making a report
-press Report.

To report a comment:
– tap and hold the comment you want to report
– tap Report
– select It’s Inappropriate
– select the reason you’re making a report
– press Report.

To report a chat:
– open the conversation you want to report
– tap the 3 dots in the corner of the screen
– select It’s Inappropriate
– tap Report
– select the reason you’re making a report
– press Report.

To report an account:
– go to the account you want to report
– tap the 3 dots in the corner of the screen
– tap Report
– select It’s Inappropriate
– select the reason you’re making a report
– press Report.

Find out more about making a report to Tik Tok.

Further reading