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As I type this, I know the kind of messages that will come streaming through my inbox in the coming days, but I also know that the most painful part of my experience has been feeling suffocated, like I have no right to speak about how this has affected me. I hereby refuse to swallow garbage and shut up about it, and anyone who thinks I shouldn’t be sharing my story would do well to remember this: Hatred is empowered by silence.

– Lauren Duca

Targeted writers and journalists have often expressed exasperation and bewilderment over what causes certain individuals to harass others online. They wanted to know the answer to one simple question: Why?

There’s still so much we don’t understand about online harassment. We need to develop concrete language, with shared definitions, about the many forms online harassment can take. We need research and storytelling about its real-world impact. And we need to reframe online harassment as a free expression issue, one that aims to intimidate writers and journalists – especially women, people of color, and members of LGBTQ+ community – into self-censorship and silence.

In this section, you will find:

Defining “Online Harassment”
A glossary of terms featuring tips for addressing specific forms of online harassment

Making Sense of Online Hate and Harassment
Understanding some of the factors driving online hate and harassment

Online Harassment as Censorship
An essay explaining why PEN America views online harassment as a free expression issue

PEN America’s Online Harassment 2017 Survey
Our 2017 survey of writers and journalists targeted by online harassment

Stories of Survival
Interviews with survivors of online harassment

Additional Helpful Resources
More online harassment guides compiled by organizations and experts in digital security