Electronic and Online Attacks and Harassment

Electronic, online or “trolling” attacks or harassment can take many forms, including online threats or unwelcome messages or images, cyberstalking, or attempts to hack or shut down accounts. They may involve a single incident of unwanted contact or sustained harassing campaigns. Whatever the form, a digital attack can be professionally disruptive and personally difficult. The University has resources to assist if you are the target of one of these attacks or campaigns. To learn more about types of electronic attacks and harassment, visit PEN America's Online Harassment Field Manual.

Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the first point of contact in mobilizing resources to assist individuals who are targeted. Even if you believe that the electronic attack is minor and does not require action, it is best to contact DPS so that a record can be created. In other circumstances, an incident can escalate quickly and become very intense. (If you experience a digital attack at home or in a context not connected to Princeton, contact your local police department.)

If you are the target of an electronic attack:

Call 911 immediately if you or your family are in imminent physical danger.

Contact the Department of Public Safety (609-258-1000), who can coordinate a response related to your presence on campus, including University email accounts and physical safety on campus.

  • Your email, social media accounts and contact information may be publicized against your will. You can request that your University contact information and profile be temporarily removed or hidden from department/unit web pages.
  • Responding to harassing messages tends to prolong and inflame incidents. Consider suspending online activity for a few days.
  • Try to preserve all messages, emails, postings or voicemails you receive as evidence. Consider allowing DPS, the Office of Information Technology or a trusted individual to sort them if you don’t want to see them.
  • Media outlets may contact you; you do not need to respond. Consult the Communications Department (commpro@princeton.edu or 609-258-3600) about how – or if – a response is required.
  • If you are a faculty member and believe the incident will disrupt classroom experiences, you should speak with your department chair about alternative instruction arrangements. An electronic attack may involve someone who attends your class and records you. You have the right to prohibit audio/video recording in your classroom.
  • If there is a risk that harassers could come to campus (even though the attack has been electronic), DPS can assist in taking steps to assure your safety.
  • If the electronic attack involves harassment based on personal identity, DPS will inform the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, which will reach out to you.