How to uplift positive voices and challenge harassers online – a thread

Twitter does not consider ‘profession’ a protected category from hateful conduct, but not long into the pandemic I was stunned to discover that some Twitter users have chosen health care workers, especially doctors and nurses, as their primary targets for online harassment and hate.

These aren’t even people in high-profile or official roles, like national Public Health Officers (not that harassment is justified against someone simply because they are in public office or government); we’re talking about my classmates, neighbours, and family. Regular, local people who I love began experiencing intense online harassment, including being threatened with doxxing and violence.

The second hardest gut punch was looking into the profiles of harassers and realizing they were mostly not shadowy ‘bad actors’ from Russian bot farms but more often real, local, regular people. I could figure out where some of them lived and worked, and recognize the places they enjoyed.

Of course, the ease with which I can almost identify harassers means that the reverse is also true. That’s why I’m not providing my name or many personal details here.

I have always been very private online, but those who have a calling or a duty to engage with the public, to save lives during the pandemic, can’t stay so private. Doctors and nurses who want to use their voices should be able to do so safely – both in the literal battle to save lives with good information during the pandemic, and even if they just want to talk about their workday or lunches or pets… They should be more than safe; their voices should be welcome.

I might not be able to be that public voice on Twitter, but I resolved to become the best incognito ally that I could. There’s a role for us in the audience: to uplift positive voices as well as challenge harassers. 

In the next few posts, I’ll share my process and what I’ve learned during these two long years (and counting!). Stay tuned.

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