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Though it might feel counterintuitive, documenting online harassment—saving emails, voicemails, screenshots, and hyperlinks—is critically important.

Documenting online abuse provides a record of what’s happened, tracks available information about the perpetrators, and alerts you and others to abuse patterns and escalations in harmful behavior. Documentation can help facilitate conversations with friends and family, and it is absolutely critical if you decide to escalate abuse with social media platforms, alert your employer, report abuse to law enforcement, or pursue legal action against an abuser.

For U.S. based readers: If you’re unsure whether or not to contact a lawyer or the police about your harassment, please read through the Law Enforcement sections of the guide.


Documentation can be time-consuming and draining, and it can trigger negative feelings related to your harassment. If you’re dealing with a particularly traumatic online exchange, you might want to enlist a trusted confidant to assist you with the documentation process (and delegate account access to them). Gmail, Twitter (by using the teams feature in Tweetdeck), Facebook (available for Pages but not Profiles), Instagram (if using a Business Account), and LinkedIn (available for Pages but not Profiles) all offer guidance on how to delegate account access on their platforms.

So you were mean to your cyberbullies. Now what?

When documenting instances of harassment, ensure that you’re saving all relevant evidence and not just the evidence that paints you in a favorable light. For example, if you contributed offensive dialogue or heated language to an online exchange that you’re planning to document, be sure to include those aspects of the exchange too.

Though you may regret having said certain things, a failure to document all aspects of your harassment could end up harming you if you ever end up in court. You don’t have to prove you’ve reacted perfectly at every step in order to pursue your harasser.

What to Document

  • Emails. Emails contain important information which, in some cases, can help identify the sender. When documenting a harassing or threatening email, be sure to save the header that contains the IP address. (IP information is generally found between square brackets, for example: []) This article offers step-by-step guides for locating IP addresses on Gmail and other common email services. Be careful not to forward the original email to anyone, as you could permanently lose the originating IP address. Instead, copy and paste the content of the offending email when you wish to alert others to the harmful messaging it contains.
  • Messages sent on social media platforms. Most platforms now offer streamlined processes for reporting abuse, but it’s still important to save screenshots—and hyperlinks (especially to the harasser’s profile) where possible—so that you have a record of the harassment, especially in cases in which the offending content ends up being removed by the original user or platform. Many social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, also offer a “Download Your Information” feature, which documents, downloads, and saves all your past activity.
  • Texts and harassing phone calls. Sometimes online harassment can occur via other forms of communication, like an SMS or a phone call. Be sure to take a screenshot of the text message as well as any contact information available for the sender, and don’t forget to log the date, time, and phone number of all threatening phone calls and texts. Tech Safety offers documentation tips for keeping a record of harassing messages.

How to document: Screenshots

Most devices—including computers, smartphones, and tablets—have a default method for capturing images directly from your screen. The below hyperlinks offer step-by-step guides for capturing screenshots on our most commonly used devices:

If you would like to take a screenshot of a long page or social media profile on your computer, you can use a browser extension like GoFullPage that captures the full page and converts it to a PDF, for example.

Once captured, these images should be saved in an easy-to-access file. You can also print screenshots for hard-copy documentation, which is useful to have when pursuing legal action. If the files contain sensitive materials, such as nonconsensual, sexually-explicit images, you might feel more comfortable saving these files to external hard drives rather than a cloud service.


“Screenshot everything.”

Carrie Goldberg founded a U.S. based law firm specializing in defending targets of online abuse in America and provided PEN America with guidance on how to document harassment online.

“There is software, such as Page Vault, that will certify that a website contained the exact content you screenshotted (i.e. that you did not doctor the content),” she advised.

“This software can help if you are trying to authenticate an exhibit to enter into evidence in court. In the unlikely event you want to threaten a platform with legal action because of its failure to help you, be sure to document all communication between you and the platform, including: your request(s) to remove the violative content, whether or not they removed it, and the amount of time it took them to remove it.”

Logging Online Harassment

If your online harassment is repetitive, ongoing, and/or severe, create a log where you can record specific information related to your online harassment. Be sure to include:

  • Date and time.
  • Type of electronic communication (direct message, email, posted image, social media comment, etc.)
  • Location (name of the website or app.)
  • Nature of the online incident (a threat of sexual violence, a racial or caste motivated attack, etc.)

The U.S.’s National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) offers a Sample Technology Abuse Log that you can use to record your abuse regardless of where you live.