Threats and intimidation are not normal, and can be very difficult to cope with. But unfortunately, when it comes to scientists who participate in the public debate, we see these problems occurring more and more often. On this page you can find out more about what you can do to reduce the risk, and the best way to respond. If you would like to report an incident involving intimidation, threats or hate speech, fill in the form [link] and the right people at your institution will contact you to provide targeted support. It helps to share the problem with somebody.
The action points below are derived from PersVeilig (PressSafe) and other sources, and have been discussed with the police, professionals inside and outside the institutions and staff members who have faced threats or intimidation in the past.
Always be aware of your own (mental) health. Intimidation, hate speech or threats can have a major impact. Remember this and be open to support if it is offered to you, or if you find that you need help.
Guide on tackling threats and intimidation against scientists
Want to read more about what employers, managers and staff can do in tackling threats and intimidation?
What can you do?
Information about yourself online
Find out what information about you is available online, and remove any information that you would prefer not to be found online.
Make sure that work-related accounts and private accounts are not linked, wherever possible.
If you are registered at the Chamber of Commerce and you are concerned that your home address can be found as a result, you can have your address blocked at the Chamber of Commerce in order to prevent threats. Please visit https://www.kvk.nl/privacy/privacy-en-het-handelsregister/ for more information.
Make sure your social media accounts are well-secured. Use two-step verification and a password manager.
Are you unsure of how seriously you should take online threats or intimidating comments? There are online tools that can help you, such as www.troll-busters.com or www.degoedezaak.nl
Block people who send hateful or intimidating messages and, if possible, report them to the relevant social media platform.
Ask for help from your communications department if you need support and advice in relation to the media or social media. You can also find a lot of advice on websites such as https://onlineharassmentfieldmanual.pen.org and https://digitalfirstaid.org/en/topics/harassed-online/
Report improper behaviour and collect evidence
Report any threats, intimidation and hate speech to your employer. You can either use this form or you can contact your manager, communications department or security department.
Collect threatening or intimidating messages. Make screenshots. Even if certain phrases do not break the law, repeated messages from the same person or people may warrant criminal prosecution for stalking or harassment.
Collecting evidence can be upsetting if you have had a traumatic experience. You might prefer to ask somebody else to do this for you (the communications department, your supervisor, colleagues or friends).
Ask the institute you work for to report specific threats to the police, or do this yourself if you prefer.
Carrying out fieldwork or research in public spaces can sometimes provoke threatening responses too. Report any problems that occur, and ask your supervisor or institute to think about how you can do your work safely.