Half of victims of online harassment attribute their experience to political differences

Political differences are a driver of online harassment, as new study of Pew Research Center found that 41% of American adults have personally experienced some form of online harassment, and half of this group attributed this behavior to politics.

The think tank surveyed 10,093 American adults online from September 8 to 13, 2020 and found that while the overall prevalence of online harassment is the same as in a similar survey conducted in 2017, the abuse against those targeted is increasing. have since intensified. then.

Pew looked at six key types of negative behavior and found that 25% of respondents said they had experienced at least one of the most serious forms of online harassment – physical threats, sexual harassment, criminal harassment, or sustained harassment – versus 18 % in 2017 and 15% in 2014.

Victims today were more likely than in 2017 to report more diverse types and more serious forms of online abuse.

Pew found that 20% of respondents, or half of those who said they had been harassed online, believe it happened because of their political views, up from 14% in 2017, along with other factors. cited, including gender and racial or ethnic origin. .

Three-quarters of online abuse targets, or 31% of all respondents, said the abuse took place on social media.

Other key results include:

  • Young adults were more likely to experience bullying online, with 64% of respondents under 30 indicating this was the case.
  • Men were more likely than women to report being the victim of online harassment, respectively 42% and 38% of respondents, but this ratio varied depending on the type of harassment. For example, 35% of men said they had received insults, compared to 26% of women, and 16% of men said they were physically threatened, compared to 11% of women. But women were more likely to report being sexually harassed online (16%, compared to 5% of men).
  • The proportion of women victims of online sexual harassment has doubled since 2017, and younger women are more likely, with 33% of women under 35 reporting being victims, compared to 11% of men in this age group.
  • Almost half of women (47%) believe they have been harassed online because of their gender, compared to just 18% of men.
  • Black (54%) and Hispanic (47%) respondents were much more likely to cite their race or ethnicity as reasons for harassment than white respondents (17%).
  • Men and whites were particularly likely to attribute their experiences of online harassment to their political views.
  • Pew said online harassment is a subjective term, just 43% of targets consider their most recent experiences to be online harassment, while 36% did not and 21% were unsure. .
  • When asked about the most effective ways to tackle online harassment, 51% of those surveyed believed permanent suspensions would be effective, while 48% chose to require users of social platforms to disclose their true identities. Other responses included criminal charges (43%), removal of social media posts (40%), and temporary bans (32%).

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