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40% of Online Users Have Been Harassed

According to a new study by the Pew Research Internet Project, online harassment is not an aberration. It is actually closer to the norm.

Pew researchers reported:

Harassment — from garden-variety name calling to more threatening behavior — is a common part of online life that colors the experiences of many web users. Fully 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it.

Some of the activity borders on dangerous:

  • 60% of internet users said they had witnessed someone being called offensive names
  • 53% had seen efforts to purposefully embarrass someone
  • 25% had seen someone being physically threatened
  • 24% witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time
  • 19% said they witnessed someone being sexually harassed
  • 18% said they had seen someone be stalked

Those who suffer are demographically diverse in terms of harassing experience:

Young adults, those 18-29, are more likely than any other demographic group to experience online harassment. Fully 65% of young internet users have been the target of at least one of the six elements of harassment that were queried in the survey. Among those 18-24, the proportion is 70%.

Young women, those 18-24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels: 26% of these young women have been stalked online, and 25% were the target of online sexual harassment. In addition, they do not escape the heightened rates of physical threats and sustained harassment common to their male peers and young people in general.

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Among the most disturbing conclusions that a reader of the report can take away is that many people do nothing significant about the problem:

  • 47% of those who responded to their most recent incident with online harassment confronted the person online
  • 44% unfriended or blocked the person responsible
  • 22% reported the person responsible to the website or online service
  • 18% discussed the problem online to draw support for themselves
  • 13% changed their username or deleted their profile
  • 10% withdrew from an online forum
  • 8% stopped attending certain offline events or places
  • 5% reported the problem to law enforcement

All in all, this means the problem will continue.

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