community management, nonprofit resources, social media policy

Under Threat? A list of Community Standards and Policies of Each Major Social Network

3 Comments 11 March 2016

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A few months ago, I spoke with an organization that was under fire from vicious social media attacks. A group of disenchanted former members of the nonprofit organization (name of this nonprofit will remain anonymous) organized a campaign against the nonprofit, demanding specific changes. This, in and of itself, is not the issue. (Everyone has the right to organize!) When the organizers began to personally berate the family members of the executive director, such as taking the executive director’s son’s public Facebook updates and mocking them, then it turned into something else altogether. A bully pulpit. Personal. Cruel.

That’s when I went hunting for the community standards and abuse policies of each social network.

I normally write about the potential of social media to effect real change. Sadly, it’s not always the case that people act as their best selves online or on land. There are actions that we can take, as organizations, which may prevent some of these issues. When there are not, we can look at our options: organize a counter-campaign, ignore the attack or abuse, and/or report the abuse to relevant social networks where this occurs.

Preventing Abuse Before It Happens

There are a things you can do now that may stop, halt, or derail an attack against your organization.

1. Own all your domains, and some your attackers might buy.

Be sure to purchase at least the dot com, dot org, and dot net domain names for the name of your organization. Consider purchasing a second set of domain names with the word “sucks” at the end of it, such as: Though, as Peter Campbell wrote in the first comment on this post, purchasing the negative name may very well be an exercise in futility.

2. Trademark your organization’s name.

I have seen copycat social media accounts trying to pass themselves off as the organization itself. When you have trademarked your name (and if possible, your logo), you need simply submit this documentation to the social media platform and the copycat account will be deleted.

3. Make sure that all images you use in publicity materials are also on your website.

One organization found itself in a quandary when a copycat Twitter account was using a known image that the nonprofit uses for one of its programs, but for some reason, this image wasn’t on the website. Twitter had no proof that the copycat account was not real.

4. Copyright your images and materials, and trademark your name and logo.

Most social channels have copyright and/or trademark infringement policies and procedures.

5. Where you manage an online group or space, create acceptable use community policies, and point them out regularly to the community.

If you manage an online space (Facebook page, Google group, LinkedIn group, etc.), create a set of community standards. point to their community standards right on their website as does the British Stammering Association. Of course, it’s ideal to post your group rules within the group itself.

Where to Look for Help: Copyright or Trademark Infringement

All the major social channels have policies regulating copyright and trademark infringement. Check out the policies of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, and YouTube. (Also YouTube’s fair use policies.) If a copycat social profile or any person is using your trademarked name, image or logo, file a complaint through the relevant social channel asking to remove the social profile using your trademarked property.

Personally Bullied or Harassed? Check the Social Media Bullying and Community Standards

I’ve seen groups go after the executive director or head of an organization personally; they will solicit friends to harass a board member, or post bullying and taunting messages about a staff person. A negative social media attack can get really personal.

Most social channels have community standards and acceptable use guidelines. In addition, they all have specific policies that address abuse and bullying.

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.00.58 AMWhere to turn

Twitter: Check out Twitter’s offensive content policy, online abuse, safety and security policy, and stated community rules.

Facebook: Facebook has an avenue to report abuse, as well as published community standards.

Instagram: Instagram also has a set of FAQs around blocking people and addressing abuse, and its own community guidelines.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn has published a set of professional community guidelines, and a procedure for reporting inappropriate content.

Pinterest: Pinterest has a set of published acceptable use policy that lists “stuff you can’t post” and “things you can’t do.”

YouTube: You better believe a company owned by Google with a bazillion videos uploaded by the crowd has a whole set of policies. These include policies on hateful content, privacy, nudity, threats, harassment and cyberbullying, harmful or dangerous content, impersonation, spam and scams…and wait, there’s more. Just check it all out.

I hope that you and your organization never have to deal with any of this. If you do, I hope that these resources are of use. If you know of other resources to include, please let me know in the comments and I will add them to this blog post.

  • A nit: registering every variation of your domain name that someone might attack is a zero-sum proposition. Grab the .com and .net and leave it at that, because anything else is obviously not your domain, particularly if the word “sucks” is in the title.

    That said, some years ago, a former employee registered “myorg”.com and set it up as an attack site, inviting other disgruntled ex-employees to join him. He also managed to get a local paper to do a front page lead and two page spread expose on us. This is not the same thing as personal attacks and harassment, and it predated the social network craze, but it’s in the ballpark. Two interesting, and not that bad things came out of it.

    The hit piece described an organization that was poorly run, but clearly deeply believed in the work. It was rankling, because it described us as we had been a few years earlier – we had had some turnover and management was much more competent by the time the article was published. But the reaction of the local government and our supporters was to laugh off the criticisms and welcome us to the club of entities slammed by this particular rag.

    More interesting, the hit website had a forum. And the forum had a 50-50 mix of people slamming us and people supporting us (mostly ex-employees). One day the instigator went in and deleted all of the pro-NPO posts, leaving only the negative ones. He effectively killed his cause – nobody ever posted to the forum again and his crusade died out quickly.

    For our part, we accepted fair criticism, countered lies, and looked a lot more balanced and reasonable than the ex-employee. I don’t think that his efforts hurt us in the least. So my advice in the face of this kind of attack: be honest, be calm, and give ’em enough rope.

    But in the case of shaming family members, doxxing and libeling, the social networks have to be accountable for that, and it is a rampant problem on Twitter, in particular.


  • Debra Askanase

    You bring up a great point that there is no way to anticipate all the different iterations of names those against your org will use. I’ve seen the “…sucks” domain used so many times, I thought it was worth it to mention. I have edited my first point, and also point people to the comment you submitted, too.

    One org I worked with went through a period where many different hate Twitter accounts were set up, and each time one was shut down, another popped up. We joked that it was like that video game where the woodchucks kept popping up. None of this was fun, and it was exhausting to try to monitor it all, nevertheless impossible to anticipate the next fake Twitter account!

    Former employees seem to be a common source of this vengeful attacks. That’s who started it at the organization I mention.

    The experience of living through the “” as a hit site is not one I envy. The story you share about the forum is in some ways hilarious – they were certainly not doing themselves any favors, right?? It’s all we can do to deal with the criticism and counter lies, and it sounds like your organization did that fairly.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and advice.


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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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