4 in 10 Internet users victim of online harassment: report

73% of users have seen someone harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it, says the report


Young women in the age group of 18-24 experience particularly severe forms, including being sexually harassed, physically threatened, deliberately embarrassed and being called offensive names, according to a survey report by PewResearch. Photo: AFP
Young women in the age group of 18-24 experience particularly severe forms, including being sexually harassed, physically threatened, deliberately embarrassed and being called offensive names, according to a survey report by PewResearch. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Four in 10 Internet users have been victims of online harassment in varying degrees of severity, with young women in the age group of 18-24 experiencing particularly severe forms, including being sexually harassed, physically threatened, deliberately embarrassed and being called offensive names, according to a survey report by PewResearch.

The survey, which was conducted between 30 May and 30 June and self-administered via the Internet by 2,849 web users, said 73% of users have seen someone harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it. There are about 3 billion internet users globally, and the figure is rising rapidly.

Of those who have personally experienced online harassment, 27% of internet users have been called offensive names, 22% have had someone try to purposefully embarrass them, 8% have been physically threatened, 8% have been stalked, 7% have been harassed for a sustained period and 6% have been sexually harassed.

Fifty five percent of the Internet users who have been harassed online (or 22% of all Internet users) have exclusively experienced the less severe kinds of harassment while 45% (or 18% of all Internet users) have fallen victim to any of the more severe kinds of harassment, the report said.

Age and gender are most closely associated with the experience of online harassment.

Men are found to be somewhat more likely than women to experience at least one of the elements of online harassment. In terms of specific experiences, men are more likely than women to encounter name-calling, embarrassment, and physical threats, the report said.

About 65% of young Internet (18-29) users have been the target of at least one of the six elements of harassment that were queried in the survey. Among those in the age group of 18-24, the proportion is as high as 70%. Young women, those in the age group of 18-24, experience certain severe types of harassment at disproportionately high levels—26% of these young women have been stalked online, and 25% were the target of online sexual harassment.

Half of those who have experienced online harassment did not know the person involved in their most recent incident.

Thirty eight percent of users said a stranger was responsible for their most recent incident and another 26%, said they didn’t know the real identity of the person or people involved.

Sixty six percent of Internet users experienced online harassment on a social networking site or app, 22% on the comments section of a website, 16% on online gaming, another 16% in a personal email account, while 10% said they experienced harassment during a discussion on website such as Reddit and 6% said on they experienced harassment on an online dating website or app.

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