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How individuals and businesses can protect themselves online

Social media can be a scary place, especially when you or your business is the recipient of harassment, trolling, swatting, doxxing, or other damaging behavior online.

Of the handful of stories I heard this week related to those behaviors, only a small percentage of people I talked to knew what to do to protect themselves in those situations.

Here are a few simple rules to help protect yourself in the event of online abuse or harassment:

1. Revisit your privacy settings every few months. This rule is especially true for individuals. While I don't have any private accounts, per se, I do limit what my friends can see, what the public can see, etc. on my Facebook profile.

2. Embrace the idea of #latergram-ming. The latergram is just that: you post it later. Unless live video is part of your marketing strategy or job, it's okay to wait until you leave a particular area before posting about you being there.

3. Get familiar with how to report abuse or spammy behavior. This functionality is probably something that many people under-utilize. Or perhaps they reported something ages ago, and nothing ever came of it, so they think, "what's the point?" Social networks have made strides in how they enable users to report abuse or harassment.

How to report something: - On Facebook - On Twitter - On LinkedIn - On Pinterest - On Instagram

4. This one's tough for some people: don't engage. If someone challenges a Tweet of mine or tries to bait me into an argument online, nine times out of 10, I won't engage. It's so easy for something as simple as a disagreement to spiral out of control.

5. Screenshot EVERYTHING. If you're the recipient of harassment, it's essential to keep a record of what happened to whom and when. If anything does escalate, it's important to keep a thorough record.

6. Create a crisis plan. I recommend creating one if you're a blogger, influencer, or business/brand. Typically, crisis plans launch only when dealing with negative PR, but what can be more public than when a crisis hits on social media. Make a plan for steps or measures you can take when something goes awry.

Because in 2019, it likely will.

Bottom line: You don't have to be passive about online privacy and reporting inappropriate behavior. Your page or profile is not a democracy. With few exceptions, you do not have to allow anyone's and everyone's opinion to be posted on your accounts.

Have you ever been the recipient of some negative online behavior? Tell me about it. Click here to contact me or Tweet me @MareeJones.

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