Online Harassment Is Becoming The Norm, Survey Shows, But It Absolutely Shouldn't Be
One of the most troubling effects of societal misogyny is that it's so widespread, women can get accustomed to it. A case in point: A new survey of 1,000 Australian women by the digital security firm Norton has found that over three quarters of women under 30 have been harassed online. Perhaps nowhere is the objectification and degradation of women more normalized than it is on the Internet, and these findings are a sobering reminder that our ethical standards and our attitudes toward women have not advanced along with our technology.
The survey results were highly age-specific, with 47 percent of women in total and 76 percent ages 18 to 29 experiencing online harassment. Additionally, one in seven women and one in four women under 30 have received physical threats online. And disturbingly, one in 10 women under 30 has been the victim of revenge porn.
The age difference could be due to overall differences in Internet usage: According to Pew Research, 97 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 use the Internet; usage decreases with age, however, with only 57 percent of those 65 and over using the web.
Pew Research has also found that young adults are most likely to experience online harassment: 65 percent of Internet users ages 18 to 19 report that they have. The survey surprisingly found that young men were the group most likely to experience at least one type of harassment, which goes against a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that women experience more trolling. Writer Alex Blank Millard even noticed this when she presented as a man on Twitter, the trolls suddenly went easy on her. However, Pew's study also found that women were more likely to experience more severe crimes like stalking and sexual harassment.
Norton also asked which gender experiences more trolling, and though the data hasn't been released yet, the firm told The Guardian that they've found women are twice as likely as men to receive threats of death and sexual violence. In addition, one in four LGBTQ people who has been the target of online harassment was bullied for their sexual orientation.
But though sexual harassment is becoming commonplace, we must not become resigned to it — and fortunately, most women aren't. 70 percent of those surveyed by Norton said the problem was serious, 60 percent believed it was getting worse, and half believed the police should take it seriously. Only 10 percent of victims had reported the crimes to the police; the low figure could be due to law enforcement simply not being equipped to address them. As of last September, only 25 states had laws prohibiting revenge porn. And as of 2014, only about half of states had cyber-stalking laws.
Online harassment directed toward women is a reflection of the harassment women face in everyday life. The Internet may provide a forum where this type of treatment slides by, but it's also important to acknowledge misogyny as the root of these attacks. Threats, stalking, and bullying are considered unacceptable in real life, and our ethics and laws should evolve to address them online. These incidents may be commonplace, but we must resist the urge to view them as inevitable.