Despite extensive efforts by Facebook and other social networks to curb behavior such as cyberbullying and online harassment, a new survey by Pew Research Center found that malicious behavior continues to thrive on the Internet, with 73 percent of respondents having witnessed such activity and 40 percent being on the receiving end of it.
Pew found on the subject of witnessing online harassment:
- 60 percent of Internet-using respondents had witnessed someone being called offensive names.
- 53 percent had seen efforts to purposefully embarrass someone.
- 25 percent witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time.
- 24 percent had seen someone being physically threatened.
- 19 percent said they witnessed someone being sexually harassed.
- 18 percent said they had seen someone be stalked.
As far as victims:
- 27 percent of Internet users have been called offensive names.
- 22 percent have had someone try to purposefully embarrass them.
- 8 percent have been physically threatened.
- 8 percent have been stalked.
- 7 percent have been harassed for a sustained period.
- 6 percent have been sexually harassed.
- 38 percent said strangers were responsible.
- 26 percent said they did not know the real identities of the aggressors.
- 55 percent of online harassment victims, representing 22 percent of all Internet users, said they had experienced less severe types of harassment, while 45 percent (18 percent) were victims of more severe actions.
Pew Research Center also examined the results by age and gender, finding that:
- Adults aged 18 through 20 were the most likely group to witness or experience online harassment, at 92 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
- Women 18 through 24 experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels, with 26 percent having been stalked online and 25 percent being the targets of online sexual harassment.
- Men are more likely than women to experience at least one type of online harassment, at 44 percent versus 37 percent, with men more likely to find themselves on the receiving end of name-calling, embarrassment and physical threats.
Where was this type of activity taking place?
- 66 percent of online harassment victims said their most recent incidents occurred on social networking sites or applications.
- 22 percent mentioned the comments sections of websites.
- 16 percent said online gaming.
- 16 percent in personal email accounts.
- 10 percent on discussion sites such as Reddit.
- 6 percent on online dating websites or apps.
How did victims react?
- 60 percent said they ignored their most recent incidents, while 40 percent took steps to respond.
- 83 percent of those who ignored online harassment and 75 percent of those who responded were satisfied with their outcomes.
- 47 percent of those who responded confronted their tormentors online.
- 44 percent unfriended or blocked the people responsible.
- 22 percent reported the responsible parties to the websites or online services where the harassment occurred.
- 18 percent discussed the problem online to draw support for themselves.
- 13 percent changed their user names or deleted their profiles.
- 10 percent withdrew from online forums.
- 8 percent stopped attending certain offline events or places.
- 5 percent reported the problem to law enforcement.
When victims were asked to describe their reactions to the most recent incidents of harassment they experienced:
- 14 percent found it extremely upsetting.
- 14 percent% found it very upsetting.
- 21 percent said it was somewhat upsetting.
- 30 percent reported that it was a little upsetting.
- 22 percent found it not at all upsetting.
- Women (38 percent) were more likely than men (17 percent) to describe their most recent incidents as extremely or very upsetting.
- 15 percent of online harassment victims said their reputations were affected.
Finally, when it came to the online environment in general:
- 92 percent of respondents believe it is easier to be more critical of others online than it is to do so offline.
- 68 percent said the online environment allowed them to be more supportive of others.
- 63 percent felt that the online environment allowed for more anonymity than they experience offline.
- Most online environments were seen as equally welcoming to both genders.
Maeve Duggan, the report’s main author, said in a press release announcing the results:
We know from previous research that people see both kindness and cruelty online. To understand these dynamics more fully, we did our first deep dive into online harassment. It was striking to see how different varieties of harassment impacted different groups on different platforms, and the range of reactions online harassment elicited.
Readers: Have you ever been the victim of online harassment?
Cyberbullying image courtesy of Shutterstock.