Online harassment is no joke. And even if you haven't been personally impacted by it, it's important to keep in mind facts about online harassment — because the reality is that it's a huge problem. Some people are definitely affected by it more than others; indeed, a recent study further supports what we've already known for quite some time: That online harassment is especially a problem for women and minorities. As Quartz reports, the rates and degree of online harassment women and minorities experience according to this new study may literally encourage people to self-censor online — which means that ignoring harassment doesn't make the harassment go away. It makes all the fascinating people and discourse that showcase the internet at its best go away instead.
The current study, which comes from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, found that a shocking 47 percent of people have experienced harassment online — that's almost one in two internet users. And as Alice Marwick at Quartz explains, "Young people, especially young women and LGB people, are less likely to make online contributions at all because they’re worried about being attacked for it." Marwick also points out that men feel less vulnerable online, which might be why even when they experience abuse online, they are less likely to label it as harassment, and thus less likely to self-censor in response.
In theory, the internet gives people a voice and a platform they otherwise wouldn't have. While that can be amazing, especially when it comes to celebrating and amplifying marginalized voices, harassment and abuse can effectively silence people when they feel forced to retreat for their own protection. That's why it's so important to not only remain informed about the state of online harassment, but also to provide support and resources for people who are experiencing abuse online.
Here are some key facts to know about the state of online harassment today:
Women Face Higher Rates of Online Stalking
According to recent data from the Pew Research Center, iwomen between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing a disproportionately high rate of stalking online compared to men. More specifically, Pew found that 26 percent of young women experienced stalking online — that's one in four women in the 18-to-24 age bracket on the internet.
Almost Half of Millennials Have Been Harassed Online
In 2016, Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist) conducted a survey of 1,000 people about online harassment. When considering all Americans over the age of 18, about 22 percent of people reported experiencing harassment online, or knowing someone who had. For Millennials, however, that number rose to 47 percent, meaning that almost half of Millennials have either experienced online harassment themselves or know someone who has — or both.
One In Four LGBTQ People Have Been Harassed Online
According to a survey of about 1,000 Australians on online harassment conducted by Norton, one in four LGBTQ people report experiencing harassment online due to their sexual orientation. According to Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), one third of LGBTQ youth report experiencing sexual harassment online and 27 percent report feeling unsafe online, period.
One in Four Women Have Been Sexually Harassed Online
According to the Pew Research Center, 25 percent of young women report experiencing sexual harassment online. Sexual harassment online can look like many things, ranging from revenge porn to threats of sexual violence, but one thing is for certain: It's really scary, and absolutely unacceptable.
What You Can Do If You're Experiencing Online Harassment
It's been said many times, but it bears repeating: It is not the responsibility of the person being harassed to prevent their own harassment; it's the responsibility of the people doing the harassing not to harass people in the first place.
But if you do experience any kind of harassment, know that first, it's not your fault, and second, you are not alone. Although no one should need to, there are some things you can do if you'd like to take action. Keep records of the harassment, including screenshots, print-outs, saved emails, and so on, so you can use it as evidence down the road. File a police report about what's happening. Report the harassment to the host website, such as Facebook or Twitter. And look toward these organizations that fight online harassment and bullying for support.
There's help out there, if you want or need it. Because the best part of the internet? It's about connecting with other people — folks who will have your back whenever necessary.