Online Harassment Hasn't Gotten Any Better Since 2014, Says Report, Showing A Depressing Lack Of Progress In How We Treat One Another

In the past few years, online harassment has increasingly gained attention, and many social media sites have made an effort to crack down on people who use their platforms to hurl abuse. However, the effect may not have been what you might hope: A new study reveals that online harassment isn't any better in 2016 than it was in 2014. And considering 2014 saw the rise of the GamerGate movement, which engaged in such extreme harassment it made national news, that's... not great.

In order to get a more complete picture of harassment in 2016 as opposed to 2014, Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist) conducted a survey of over 1,000 respondents, all Americans over the age of 18, and compared 2016 data to 2014 data. According to their research, 22 percent of people have been harassed in 2016 or know someone who has, and for millennials, that number is more than double — 47 percent. And unfortunately, those number are more or less the same as they were in 2014.

In fact, looking at the full picture, it's striking how little things have changed. For instance, women are still roughly as likely to be harassed in 2016 as in 2014; in 2014, 57 percent of women respondents were harassed online, while in 2016 the number is 55 percent. Women are also still much more likely to be harassed than men, given that only 45 percent of men in 2016 reported experiencing harassment. And, in line with other findings, when women are harassed, it is much more likely to specifically target our gender — in fact, the numbers show women are four times more likely to experience sexist harassment.


The report found that things are similarly bad for racial harassment. Although white people are slightly more likely to say they have been harassed online in 2016 than 2014, people of color still are far more likely to experience harassment than white people online. In two years, the number of black adults who report being harassed has declined from 28 to 22 percent, but 34 percent of both Asian and Latino internet users report harassment this year, which is the same or slightly worse than the numbers from 2014 (34 and 32 percent respectively). The number of people who report that their harassers specifically targeted their race has risen from 23 percent to 26 percent; meanwhile, only 19 percent of white people in 2016 report being harassed online, according to the survey.


On what might be a very small bright side, sexual harassment seems to have declined. In 2014, 44 percent of people who had been harassed reported being subject to sexual harassment. In 2016, it's only 27 percent. Then again, 27 percent is still a depressingly high number, so do with that what you will.

Overall, these numbers are not encouraging. Despite all the attention from press, policy makers, and social media companies, online harassment hasn't budged much in the past two years. It still seems to be just as prevalent, and it's following most of the same patterns. So clearly, we need to step up our game — or maybe we just need to be more aware of the kind of treatment it's not OK to use toward another person, whether they're behind a screen or in front of you in real life.

You can find more information from the study here.

Images: Giphy (2)