SOS Switch

When users are facing extreme or overwhelming online abuse, they should be able to activate an SOS feature that instantly triggers additional in-platform protections and access to external resources.

How does this mitigate hate?

Certain abusive tactics, because of their severity or scale, can be particularly overwhelming, traumatizing, and paralyzing. This type of abuse can include cyber mobs, threats of physical or sexual violence, hateful slurs, sexual harassment, and doxing. Users need a way to indicate that they are experiencing extreme or overwhelming online abuse and a mechanism for urgently accessing more robust, personalized, and trauma-informed assistance.


When to use it?

When a user is experiencing extreme or severe online abuse, users need to be able to urgently and easily access more robust, personalized, and trauma-informed protection and support.

How does it work?

Users should be able to customize and easily access an SOS feature that, when activated, would instantly trigger additional in-platform protections and access to external resources, which could include:

– tightening security and privacy settings (see “Safety Modes”);

– activating a rapid response team to provide peer support (see “Delegated Access”);

– using an in-platform chat or hotline to walk through in-platform anti-abuse features; and

– directing users to external resources, such as emergency mental health counseling, legal counseling, and cybersecurity support.


During episodes of extreme online abuse, which can be paralyzing and overwhelming, users are able to get immediate heightened protection and support.


Users could abuse certain aspects of the SOS feature, such as the chat function, hotline, and referrals to external resources.


In January 2020, the dating app Tinder launched a panic button integrated directly into the platform. Users who are concerned about their safety can tap the button to alert a third-party company called Noonlight, which reaches out to check on the user and alert emergency responders if needed. (screenshot taken November 2021)


Brown, Dalvin. “Tinder Is Adding a Panic Button for When Bad Dates Go Horribly Wrong,” in USA Today; (23 January 2020). Accessed at:

Siegel, Rachel. “You Swiped Right But It Doesn’t Feel Right: Tinder Now Has a Panic Button” in The Washington Post; (23 July 2020). Accessed at:

Vilk, V., Vialle E., & Bailey, M. No Excuse for Abuse: What Social Media Companies Can Do Now to Combat Online Harassment and Empower Users., PEN America (2021). Accessed at:


Written by PEN America