Abuse & Social Networking Sites

The use of online social networking sites is increasingly common, and while existing sites grow and change, new sites and new features are coming up all the time.  With the use of social networking sites, like Facebook, it is important to know the risks, as well as the realities relating to your safety and privacy online.

Social Networking Sites

An abuser can use social networks to stalk, harass, and gain information about a former or current partner.

  • Social networks do not show record of who looks at your page when, which parts of your page, for how long, etc., therefore it is possible for someone to monitor your page without your knowledge.
  • An abuser may impersonate a victim with a new page or by hijacking the victim’s page.
  • Abusers may “friend” (Facebook & Snapchat) their victim’s friends and family and gain at least some level of access to personal information.
  • An abuser may be able to find a partner or former partner’s profile and/or other information through search engines.

GPS and Other Location-Based Social Networking Systems

These programs, which are run through cell phones, on Facebook, etc., allow a person to “check-in” at locations; this reveals current location information to anyone connected with that person in their social network.

  • Facebook Places: allows the owner of an account or a friend to check-in and give current location information; privacy settings can be customized to prevent this!
  • Geotagging Photos: pictures taken on smartphones (iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, etc.) may have location information automatically embedded in the data of the phone based on the phone’s GPS. Whether this information is displayed varies depending on which site it is posted. This can be turned off on all phones!


Can be installed on a computer either physically in-person or remotely through an email, instant message, or other download; this can give the person who installed the Spyware information about passwords for social networks and any other accounts accessed online.

Remember, NOTHING posted online through a social networking site or blog is going to be completely private.  Therefore, survivors must weigh the cost/ benefits when choosing where and how to use social networks!

However, privacy settings can be made more secure. Awareness is also key. There may be more information “public” online about you than you would imagine.  Try searching your name on Google, Bing, or another search engine, and see what comes up!

If someone is impersonating, monitoring, or otherwise harassing you online there are options for recourse:

  • Reporting inappropriate or false content/pages to the site owner may result in the removal of the content or page if it violates terms of use.
  • Most sites have a process for users if your account is compromised.
  • If reporting to law enforcement: save/print messages, posts, etc. for documentation, in addition, take a screen shot.
  • Law Enforcement can contact site personnel and send preservation letters to prevent evidence from being deleted with the request that the owner of the account not be notified that their account is under investigation.
  • Misuse of online spaces may be a violation of a Protection From Abuse order (PFA) or could be included in an application for a PFA.

For more information on this topic, visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

Content on this page used with permission from Caring Unlimited, York County’s Domestic Violence Program