Condemning online harassment

I am writing today to make the online-facing sociology community in Canada and the US aware that a serial harasser is using multiple anonymous Twitter accounts to target, harass, and impersonate several Muslim women sociologists. Muslim women graduate students in particular are receiving the brunt of this harassment, including impersonation and the posting of disparaging remarks and outright lies about their personal lives. 

You may be aware of other online harassers that have plagued sociologists. Similar to other harassers who have targeted sociologists in the US, this anonymous person claims a victim status, purporting to be harassed, stalked, and marginalized within academic spaces. In doing so, they seek to develop a following and to garner sympathy from others.

These accounts pose as a Muslim woman and actively participate in topical online discourse to reinforce this image; however, the people I have spoken with suspect that this is not the case. Their anonymity, and their habit of switching accounts repeatedly, posting photos and false information, lends little credibility to their persona or their stories of victimhood. On the other side, real people whom I know and trust are being harassed by this person.

It is unbearable to me that Muslim women–mostly graduate students–have to deal with yet another barrier to their full participation in the sociology community. They have to deal with the emotional toll of this harassment, of worrying that their stories will not be believed. They have to wonder what impact this will have on their careers.

Others have also received negative attention from these accounts. Not all of them are Muslim women, but mostly the account targets racialized women faculty and students. It is totally unacceptable. 

It is important to me to make a public statement that no one should have to deal with this harassment. It is so easy to make false claims from an anonymous account, and so difficult to set the record straight. I hope that we all can pay attention enough to avoid playing a supporting role to harassment by engaging with these accounts. 

We must collectively condemn online harassment in our community and support Muslim women sociologists.  

2 thoughts on “Condemning online harassment”

    1. Pam, that is an excellent question. I have a list of Twitter handles that this person has used, but I don’t want to add to the stress of the graduate students that have been targeted by posting them online, dragging their names through the mud just to out this person. Other than to offer context, it won’t help much, because the accounts are deactivated and new ones crop up all the time.

      I think the best we can do is be aware that this is happening, take the claims of anonymous accounts with a big grain of salt, and then rely on our trusted networks of actual people we know to collectively produce an understanding of the truth. For example, I’ll be happy to share details on the ever-changing Twitter identity of the harasser with you or anyone I know and trust privately, and I’ll be happy if you share those details with your trusted colleagues as well.

      We have built this great online community through shared interactions over the years, and I hope that the level of trust we all have collectively established is an anchor for the truth. I hope that this can counter the accusations, distortions, and lies of an unknown, anonymous account.

      Unfortunately, the very well-meaning principle of “believe the victim” has been weaponized by bad actors. If you are contacted by an anonymous account who butters you up for a while, then claims to be a victim of harassment by a Muslim woman graduate student or faculty member, don’t buy it wholesale. Instead, recognize it as possibly part of this pattern. We can all work together to support those who actually are being harassed, while holding onto a bit of skepticism for unsupported accusations from anonymous accounts.

      Otherwise, I know that a statement of support such as the one you’ve already made is greatly appreciated. I’m not sure I have more ideas than that, but since so many others have dealt with this type of online harassment in the sociology Twitter community, perhaps there are some things I haven’t thought of that others would like to suggest.


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