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41 Percent of Americans Have Experienced Online Harassment

  • VOA News

FILE - In this, Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, file photo illustration, a person types on a laptop, in Miami.

Forty-one percent of Americans say they’ve experienced online harassment, a new survey says.

According to the Pew Research Center, that number is up from 2014, the last time they did the survey, when 35 percent of Americans said they’d been harassed online.

Nearly two-thirds reported seeing online harassment happen to someone else, the survey found. That was down from 73 percent in 2014.

The most common type of abuse was “offensive name-calling,” according to Pew. Other forms of harassment include “purposeful embarrassment,” “stalking,” “physical threats” and sexual harassment.

“Some 22 percent of Americans – or roughly half of those who have experienced harassment at all – have encountered online harassment that went no further than [name-calling and embarrassment],” the report stated.

Men were more likely to be targeted than women, with 44 percent saying they’d been harassed compared to 37 percent of women. Women were more likely to be sexually harassed online, with 53 percent reporting they’d received unsolicited, sexually explicit photos.

Much of the harassment, the survey found, was based on political views, race, ethnicity or gender.

“I got into a political debate and the person did not agree with me,” said one survey respondent. “They threatened to find information about me and make it go viral. After I called them a troll they threatened to physically harm me.”

Another had a similar experience.

“I made a comment regarding the recent presidential election and was called many names and stereotypes regarding my race,” the respondent said.

Social media was the most common forum for adults to experience online harassment, the survey found, with 58 percent of victims reporting the harassment had happened on social media. More than half reported that the harassment came from a stranger.

While social media sites have tried to reduce levels of harassment, the survey found that 79 percent of respondents think social media sites should do more.

The survey also found “emergent” forms of online harassment such as “doxxing,” which means to post someone’s personal information without their permission; “trolling,” or trying to provoke someone; hacking, or accessing someone’s accounts; and even “swatting,” meaning to call the police, reporting a fake emergency at the house of the person targeted.

“While many Americans are not aware of these behaviors, they have all been used to escalate abuse online,” according to the report.

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