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How to deal with online abuse in sport

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How to deal with online abuse in sport
How to deal with online abuse in sport

Online abuse in sport can seriously impact mental and physical wellbeing, so it’s important to know how to recognise it and deal with it quickly.

Online abuse can affect anyone in sport, including competitors, coaches, volunteers, officials, supporters or the public. Any of these groups can be the target of online abuse, or responsible for it. Online abuse is never OK.

On this page:

How to recognise online abuse in sport

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Online abuse is behaviour that uses digital technology to threaten, intimidate, menace, bully, harass, humiliate or offend someone. 

Some types of online abuse may not seem too bad if they happen only once – such as a comment that teases someone, or name calling. But if the abuse continues, or the content is shared widely, it can become seriously harmful to the person targeted. It can also stop them participating in sport.

Learn more about the different types of online abuse and how to recognise if something has happened at your sport.

How you can deal with online abuse

Online abuse is not OK and there are steps you can take to deal with it. Situations can vary according to the type of abuse, the person responsible and the online platform where it happened. Abuse can come from another sport member, the general public or someone you don’t know. 

Remember, you don’t have to deal with online abuse on your own. It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a teammate, friend or family member. They can also help you report the abuse.

If you’re being targeted by online abuse: 

  • Contact your sport organisation for help – most have online safety related policies in place. If the issue involves members of your sport, it may be dealt with under sport policy. You can also report some matters to Sport Integrity Australia.
  • Report serious online abusefollow the steps on this page to report harmful content to the online platform or to eSafety. 

If you’re a sport administrator helping a targeted member: 

  • Act in a timely way, before the harmful content spreads 
  • Follow sport policies and involve appropriate staff or volunteers 
  • Check their wellbeing and offer them information on how to manage the impacts of cyberbullying (if they are under 18), adult cyber abuse (if they are 18 or older) or image-based abuse.
  • Advise them not to respond to the abuse, but to collect evidence of what happened and where, by taking screenshots – this is important proof if they decide to report it to the online platform or service, or to eSafety.
  • Report serious online abusefollow the steps on this page to help the targeted member report the harmful content to the online platform or to eSafety. You may also make the report on their behalf, if the member has said it is OK to do so.

Read more about supporting targeted members and find online safety advice in our tailored page for sport administrators.

Steps to report seriously harmful online abuse

When misconduct happens in-person at a venue, sport organisations can identify the people involved and take action, but it's often more difficult when it happens online. Those responsible for online abuse may be unknown to the organisation and the person targeted, so they’re impossible to identify. Even if the person responsible for the abuse is known, you may not be able to resolve the issue and stop the abuse happening.  

eSafety has the legal power to remove the most serious online abuse and harmful content, so it doesn’t keep impacting the person targeted. This often involves investigating who sent or shared anonymous messages, posts or comments (but we keep that information confidential).

If you’re ready to make a report, or guiding the person targeted by the abuse, follow these steps.

1. Collect evidence

It’s important to keep evidence of the abusive online content. Take screenshots and record what has happened and where, such as: 

  • the web page address (URL) and name of the social media platform, messaging service, website, game or app
  • the user profile or account name
  • the date and time it was sent, posted or shared
  • proof of any reports you’ve made to the online platform or service, or to the police.

Taking screenshots, photos or recordings of your device’s screen is a quick and easy way to collect evidence. But don’t save or share nudes or sexual images or videos of anyone under 18 or any other illegal or restricted content

Find out how to collect evidence, including how to take screenshots on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android devices.

2. Report it  

For cases of cyberbullying of a child under 18 or adult cyber abuse (18 or older), report harmful posts or profiles to the online service or platform first. You can find reporting links for most apps in The eSafety Guide. If the platform or service doesn’t help and the content is seriously harmful, you can make a report to eSafety. We will ask you for evidence that you have complained to the service or platform first, such as a receipt, reference number or report number.

For cases of image-based abuse, when someone shares a nude or intimate image or video of you without your consent (or threatens to share it), report it to eSafety immediately unless you’re being blackmailed.

If you’re being blackmailed over a nude or intimate image of you, stop all contact and don’t pay the blackmailer or give them more money or intimate content. This is a type of image-based abuse called ‘sextortion’. It’s not your fault and there's help available. Go to our specific advice on how to deal with sexual extortion.

3. Stop contact, tighten security and prevent sharing

You can take action such as: 

  • using in-app functions to hide, ignore or mute the offending account and their comments – when you’ve collected evidence and made a report you can also block them
  • updating your privacy and security settings across all your online accounts
  • taking a break from the platform or service by logging out or temporarily deactivating your account.

For image-based abuse cases, you can also block your intimate image or video from being uploaded to some social media sites and other platforms. You need to have a copy of the image or video, but you don’t need to send it to the platform – they will create a digital ‘fingerprint’ (or ‘hash’) instead.

4. Get more support

Experiencing or helping someone targeted by serious online abuse can be distressing. Find more information about managing the impacts of cyberbullying, adult cyber abuse and image-based abuse. There are also support and counselling services available to you.

Explore tips for staying safe online.

Stay safe

Emergency help in Australia, any time of the day or night

If you’re in Australia and in immediate danger or at risk of harm, call the police on Triple Zero (000).

Contact your local police on 131 444 if there are threats to your safety or threats to your friends or family members.

Examples of how to deal with online abuse

Click on the + symbol to find out what to do and how to deal with the scenario.

  • Contact your sport organisation for help. They may be able to take action depending on your organisation’s sport policies, or help you report it to eSafety.
  • Collect evidence. Take screenshots of the abusive content, and keep a record of the web address (URL) where the abuse is happening and any usernames involved. This is important proof if you decide to report it to the online platform or service or to eSafety. Read more about how to collect evidence, including how to screenshot on Mac, Windows PC, iPad or iPhone, or Android device.
  • Report harmful content. Make a report to the online service or platform first. You can find reporting links for different social media, messaging services, websites, games or apps in The eSafety Guide. Make sure to save evidence of your report. If the online platform doesn’t help, and the abuse is very serious, you can report it to eSafety.
  • Prevent further contact. Use in-app functions to mute, hide or ignore the account or any other posts. After you’ve made a report, you can also block them.
  • Get more help. Talk to someone you’re close with like a friend, a teammate or your family so you don’t deal with the situation on your own. You can also contact a counselling or support service that’s right for you.

Read more example scenarios showing how to deal with online abuse if you are:

You can also read our 8 ways to stay safe online in sport to learn different strategies for having safer and more positive experiences online at your club or organisation.

More information

Take a look at more of our advice on how to stay safe online and tips for updating your settings: 

  • The eSafety Guide has safety and reporting advice about popular apps, games, social media and other online platforms.
  • How to manage your digital safety settings shows you basic safety tips for your devices and other services, like location sharing, the cloud and connecting to wi-fi.
  • Identity theft includes advice on how to protect your personally identifiable information and set up strong passwords.

You can also get help and support from one of these counselling services

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Lifeline

All ages. All issues. Phone counselling and online chat available all day, every day.

More support services

Last updated: 01/11/2023