Cyber bullying concept. People using notebook laptop for social media interactions with … [+]
2020 was a particularly controversial year. This is especially true online, especially on social networks where vitriol felt it had hit an all-time high. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, online harassment has increased in recent years.
Of the more than 10,000 Americans surveyed, 41 percent said they had experienced some form of online harassment, Pew said. That number is actually identical to the results of a similar survey Pew conducted four years ago in 2017. However, what is particularly worrying about the latest version of the survey is the severity and persistence of the attacks. One in four Americans has now experienced serious online harassment, including physical threats, sexual harassment, and stalking. Equally worrying is the fact that persistent harassment and various types of harassment have increased significantly in recent years.
A significant proportion of the increase in persistent and severe forms of online harassment has been seen by women. Pew found that 16 percent of women surveyed said they had been sexually molested online. That is twice as much as in 2017, when eight percent said they experienced such threats. Women were more than three times more likely than men to report experiencing sexual harassment online. The sexual assaults are particularly bad for younger women, with 33 percent of women under the age of 35 saying they were targeted in this way. Only 11 percent of young men said they had the same experience.
The vitriol mirror is even worse for the LGBTQ + community. About seven in ten adults with LGBTQ + identification reported experiencing online harassment, and more than half reported experiencing severe forms of online abuse.
Forms of serious harassment have increased at an alarming rate. Pew found that one in ten Americans were tracked online, up from seven percent in 2017. Physical threats have also increased. 14 percent of people were affected by these calls for violence in 2020, compared with 10 percent in 2017 and seven percent in 2014 in 2017.
Even fewer forms of harassment have become more common. Pew found that one in four Americans was attacked online with “willful embarrassment,” and 31 percent were victims of abusive names.
Regarding the reasons for these increasing cases of harassment, victims increasingly refer to their political beliefs as the reason for their target audience. Half of all people polled by Pew said their political views were at least part of the reason for their harassment, up from 35 percent in 2017. One in three Americans exposed to online harassment said it was due to their gender identity while 29 percent said it was because of their race or ethnicity. Almost 20 percent said they were attacked because of their religion, and 16 percent said the abuse was directed against them because of their sexual orientation.
These experiences have made many Americans more aware of the type of harmful rhetoric that pops online. As a result, most Americans believe online harassment is a problem. 55 percent of respondents say it’s a big problem and 37 percent identify it as a minor problem, compared to just seven percent who don’t see it as a problem at all.
Most Americans believe that social media, where a lot of the harassment occurs, is not doing enough to address this problem. Only 18 percent of respondents believe that social media companies are doing a good or excellent job against harassment, while 32 percent say these companies are poor at handling abusive content.