Online harassment is an all-too-common strategy used by bad actors online to silence and dehumanize people online. In the games industry, we often see online abuse tactics used against employees at studios and companies when some parts of their audience or player base are upset about an aspect of a game or other communications from the company. They find one or more employees to target and funnel their anger and rage into. These kinds of cyber mobs and harassment campaigns are all too common and can be incredibly traumatic and isolating for the person targeted as well as causing secondary harm to their co-workers or other bystanders. Especially for employees with more public-facing roles, this harassment also feels impossible to walk away from, since they are logging into it every day for work.

Game companies have a responsibility to anticipate harassment affecting their employees and build-in comprehensive ways to support and protect them. When crisis happens, it’s important to have a comprehensive studio-wide policy and a transparent plan of action.

We’ve gathered some light guidelines for companies to build their own internal policy. These policies should be regularly revisited and updated to integrate new forms of threats that arise.

The Games Hotline also offers customized and integrated support for building harassment response policies. Reach out to us via our contact form.

Understanding Online Abuse

Online abuse has many names such as online harassment, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and trolling. It is when an individual or a group of individuals uses online tools to attack a target. It can take many forms such as a massive hate campaign launched targeting an individual or a smaller-scale attack from one individual such as digital or physical stalking. Targeted harassment campaigns can vary in length anywhere from a few days to years.

In addition to attacks on a target, many campaigns also target a victim’s friends, families, children, and employers. These satellite attacks work to isolate, silence, and shame the original target and do as much damage as possible.

Just because an employee may have said something inappropriate does not mean they deserve to be attacked or doxxed for it. No one deserves to be harassed or abused online. If an employee says something offensive or oppressive and is receiving pushback from the community that was harmed, this might not be harassment as much as an expression that the community was harmed by the words and actions of the employee. In this case, it is recommended to create a policy for how to repair harm and be accountable when an employee has caused harm. 

You never know who will be targeted or when. However, employees in higher profile or more public facing positions such as communications are often more likely to be targeted, as well as employees with marginalized identities.

What Should Employers Expect?

Consider Before You React:

What Can Employers Do When An Employee Is Facing Online Abuse?

An employer’s response during online attacks can make a world of difference to the employee being targeted. We’ve gathered some example protocols employers could put into place to set up a best-case-scenario of support for these moments of worst-case-scenario harassment. 


We start by rewinding to some building blocks to prepare.



Of course, although these cover a lot of the common threads of harassment experience, every case is different, and also every person’s response and needs will be different. While these protocols are a solid place to start, we also recommend digging in deeper (perhaps with the task force you’ve formed) and creating action plans for various angles of harassment. What should be done if it’s on social media versus threatening an in-person event versus private blackmail or revenge porn? 

For more specific and customized guidance, the Games and Online Harassment Hotline provides safety consulting. Inquire through our contact form.



Choosing to seek support from law enforcement can be a fraught decision. For many, especially people of color and trans folks, law enforcement may bring more harm rather than more safety. US law enforcement is still woefully behind in their understanding and sympathy when it comes to online harassment. There are still very few jurisdictions that have laws supporting victims of online harassment, and police often won’t engage in prevention of harm. They typically will only act after a crime (in the legal sense) has been committed. For all of these reasons, we do not tend to recommend law enforcement or legal action in most instances of online harassment. 

If you would like to reach out to law enforcement, officials recommend that targets report online harassment that directly threatens you to law enforcement immediately and with as much documentation as you can. This ensures that there is a timely, documented record of the abuse on file.

In some instances, such as bomb and shooting threats at physical locations such as events or company offices law enforcement engagement may become mandatory or imposed. If this is the case, be sure to have a knowledgeable company representative take point of these communications. Commonly in the United States, law enforcement will file a report and those reports become public record (often within days). Be sure you do NOT include the target’s personal information such as phone number or home address. Use company information when possible. Officers will push back on this but it’s imperative that you do all you can to support the safety and privacy of your employee.

Similar to considering whether to seek out law enforcement, legal action can be an extremely fraught process in the United States. There are some laws, state by state, that protect against particular aspects of online harassment but overwhelmingly the legal system does not understand or fully respect the seriousness of online abuse. Additionally, the legal process can be extremely lengthy, costly, and taxing on the individual.

To learn more about online harassment laws in the United States please reference PEN America’s Online Harassment Field Manual.


We highly recommend creating or reviewing and updating the existing a Social Media Policy, Comment Moderation Policy, and Community Guidelines with issues of online harassment in mind.

We also recommend creating a policy for what to do when an employee causes harm to another employee or to a community (we can help with this!).