Survey shows almost 40 percent of Americans have been harassed online

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 12, 2017

More than 40 percent of Americans have been harassed on the internet, according to a Pew Research Center survey of 4,248 "nationally representative" American adults that was published on July 11.

But while the Pew survey indicates that people want to see systemic change around the issue of online harassment, it also reveals disagreement over whose job it should be to keep us safe online.

"To borrow an expression from the technology industry, harassment is now a "feature" of life online for many Americans", Maeve Duggan, a research associate at the Pew Research Center's Internet Project, wrote in a Tuesday blog post. Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds (67 percent) have experienced any form of online harassment, compared with one-third of adults ages 30 and older.

Sixty-two percent of Americas consider online harassment to be a major problem, Pew found.

"While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online", the report states. Unsurprisingly, young women reported the highest rates of sexual harassment in the survey.

Similarly, a modest majority (56 percent) feels that many people take offensive content online too seriously, while 43 percent say this type of content is too often excused as not a big deal. In fact, 14 percent of respondents said they have been harassed online specifically due to their political views.

Meanwhile, almost half of respondents - 49 percent - felt that law enforcement should "have a major role in addressing harassment". Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to say they have been targeted due to their political views. Almost six-in-ten online harassment targets (58 percent) say their most recent incident occurred on a social media platform.

Social media is the most common venue for online harassment, says the Pew report.

One issue the study reinforces is the negative role anonymity plays in our digital communications. Among those who have personally experienced online harassment, 54 percent say their most recent incident involved either a stranger and/or someone whose real identity they did not know.

If you've been online, which, if you're reading this, you have, chances are good that you've been harassed.

Data for the report are drawn from a wave of Pew Research Centers American Trends Panel, conducted January 9-23, 2017, among 4,248 respondents.

The study, which was conducted among 4,248 US adults, revealed name calling and embarrassment as the most common forms of online harassment. The panel is managed by Abt SRBI.

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