Online Harms

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Online harms is a form of harassment that is carried out via technology (i.e. social media, messaging platforms, and online dating apps).

It consists of sexual or non-sexual behaviours such as:

  • Rude or distressing content or comments
  • Publishing private identifiable information without consent
  • Unwanted and/or explicit messages or calls,
  • Coerced sex-based communication or sexual harassment,
  • Image-based sexual abuse (non-consensual creation and sharing of images or videos), 

More information or examples can be found below under types of online harms. The list is non-exhaustive.

Some common platforms where abuse was experienced was on Telegram, WhatsApp, and Instagram (Straits Times, 2021).

Sexual harassment could also lead to Sexual Grooming.

Protecting Against Online Harassment

Simple steps you can take to protect yourself from being harassed online:

  • Identify what information about yourself is accessible online
  • Adjust your privacy settings
  • Limit any and all forms of unwanted contact
  • Do not be afraid to stop, block, confide, record, and report

For more info on how to protect yourself online, please find out more here

What should I do if I think I’m being harassed online?
  • Stop engagement  and BLOCK the contact
  • Tell a trusted person
  • Contact a professional (refer to helpline section)
  • Ensure that you’ve recorded evidence
  • Make a police report (You can do so online , go to the nearest neighbourhood police centre or post, or by calling the police hotline ‘999’)
  • Apply for a Protection Order under POHA (non-family) or a Personal Protection Order under the Women’s Charter (family)


Types of online harms

Types of online harms




Online bullying, harassment, threats, insults or abuse



Publish a person’s identity information with the intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, fear of violence or facilitate the use of violence



Online stalking (e.g., by tracking one’s whereabouts through his/her social media accounts, creating a website to document the victim’s daily routine without the victim’s consent, flooding the victim’s inbox with unwanted emails or messages every hour)


Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) i.e., non-consensual publication of victim’s intimate images


(i)              distribution of, or

(ii)            offer or threat to distribute, or

(iii)           offer to acquire, buy or gain access to

nude, intimate or sexually explicit images or videos (including altered images or videos) of the victim without his/her consent


Example of (i): X posts intimate image of victim online without victim’s consent

Example of (ii): X uploads a post asking if anyone would like to receive the victim’s intimate image, without the victim’s consent; X threatens victim to post victim’s intimate image online

Example of (iii): X uploads a post asking to buy/receive intimate images of the victim

Revenge porn, sextortion, deepfakes, cyberflashing, voyeurism (upskirt photos/spycam)

Sexual Harassment (excluding IBSA)

Unwanted messages of a sexual or indecent nature

Asking someone to send intimate pictures of themselves

Sexual grooming, sexual communication.

Impersonation/’identity theft’

Posing as someone else online (e.g. setting up a social media account under another person’s identity)



Statements, images or videos about a person which are false or misleading or causes reputational harm

Fake news, libel/slander

Cancel campaign

Having someone participate in and encourage others to call for and create pressure to punish a person for what he/she may have said or done (or what is sometimes referred to as “cancelling”) (e.g. punishing a person by shaming him/her, or pressuring employers to fire him/her)

Cancel culture, boycott, deplatforming, silencing

Hate speech

Targeting a person with hate speech/hate comments because of the community / segment of society they belong to or identify with, or targeting the community or segment of society as a whole (e.g. racist comments)


Communication of child abuse material


(i)              distribution of, or

(ii)            offer or threat to distribute, or

(iii)           offer to acquire, buy or gain access to,

child abuse material.


Child abuse material means material that depicts an image of a person below 16 years of age as a victim of torture, cruelty, physical abuse or sexual abuse.  


[Please refer to examples of what constitutes (i), (ii) and (iii) for IBSA]


Misuse of confidential information

(breach of confidence) Misuse of information that a person has received in confidence by taking advantage or using the information without consent. Confidential information is information that is not publicly known (e.g. passwords, emails, as well as the personal data of individuals and third-parties)



Fraud involves deceit with the intention to illegally or unethically gain at the expense of another

Scams (Sextortion/love scams may apply here as well)

How can family and friends support the victim?
  • Do NOT blame or accuse the victim
    • “It’s not your fault”
  • Do not judge or impose your opinion on the victim
    • “It’s your choice how you want to move forward”
  • Validate their feelings and experience
    • “I’m here to support you.”; “That must have been very difficult for you.”
  • Direct them to other formal sources of help (i.e. helplines)
    • SHECARES@SCWO contact information:

      Helpline: 8001 01 4616 (Mon – Fri, 9am to 9pm*)

      WhatsApp Text: 6571 4400 (Mon – Fri, 9am to 9pm*)

      Website: SHE and SCWO.

      *excluding PH.

A note for parents: You may be tempted to confiscate devices, stop all online activity or monitor the child’s activity. First, understand that social media and technology are becoming an integral part of the child’s social life. Then, sit down with your child to patiently discuss possible boundaries and reasonable safety restrictions to prevent such incidents from happening again. If you need advice for how to go about doing this, contact TOUCH Cyber Wellness (1800 377 2252). More information can be found here.

Where can I seek help?

Call these hotlines if you think you are experiencing online sexual harassment


Helpline: 8001 01 4616 (Mon – Fri, 9am to 9pm*)

WhatsApp Text: 6571 4400 (Mon – Fri, 9am to 9pm*)

Website: SHE and SCWO.

*excluding PH.

24-hour National Anti-Violence Helpline 1800-777-0000
Solid Ground
TOUCH Cyber Wellness
(For help on a range of cyber wellness issues)

Phone: 1800 377 2252

AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre

6779-0282 (Mon – Fri, 10am to 6pm)

Email: (Mon – Fri, 10am – 6pm, replies within 3 working days)

Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection 6555-0390
Trans SAFE Centre 6449-9088
Care Corner Project StART 6476-1482

If you are able to, you may also approach your nearest Family Service Centre

Singapore Statistics

According to the DQ Impact Report 2018,
●  54% of children, between the ages of 8-12 are exposed to at least one cyber-risk (cyberbullying, video game addiction, offline meetings, online sexual behaviour).
●  16% of this group have been exposed to online sexual behaviours such as visiting websites with sexual content or having sexual conversations online with strangers.
●  12% of respondents have chatted with or met online strangers in real life.

According to the The Straits Times, in 2020 there were
● 191 reported cases of technology-facilitated sexual abuse with 55% of these occuring between 18-34 year olds
●  Out of these cases, the most common perpetrators were:
     – Intimate partners (29% of the time)
     – Acquaintances (21% of the time)
     – Contacts from dating apps (10% of the time)