The Internet is the perfect breeding ground for bullying behavior because of the security blanket of anonymity that the Web provides. There is no denying that trolls are lurking in every corner of the Web, but a new survey found just how serious online harassment is.
According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, more than one-third of American adult Internet users say they have experienced online harassment firsthand.
The survey consisted of data from 2,849 participants, who were asked to report any experience with cyber bullying including being called offensive names, being stalked, or threatened.
The survey found that men are "somewhat more likely" to experience online harassment than women, but in less severe forms. These include pride-hurting things like name-calling and being embarrassed.
While 37 percent of women reported online harassment compared to 44 percent of men, the survey found that women were more likely to experience more severe forms of harassment such as stalking and sexual harassment. Women ages 18 to 24 were found to be the demographic at the highest risk for all kinds of harassment.
"It was striking to see how different varieties of harassment impacted different groups on different platforms, and the range of reactions online harassment elicited," said lead author of the Pew report, Maeve Duggan.
The survey reveals that 27 percent of Internet users were called an offensive name and 22 percent had someone try to "purposely embarrass them." Eight percent of users reported being physically threatened and another eight percent say they have been stalked. The users said that most of the time, the online harassment came from someone they didn't know.
The survey found that 38 percent of women who recently suffered online abuse from Internet trolls reported that the harassment was "extremely or very upsetting."
Social media was found to be the most common place for cyber bullies, with 73 percent of Internet users reporting they have seen others being harassed.
One participant reported they were "told that if I stopped communicating with this man he would find me and rape me." Others were called racists, misogynistic, or bullied based on athletes, cars and sport teams they liked.
The British think tank Demos published a study in August that claimed that male public figures were more likely to receive abuse on Twitter than women; however, the study counted tweets that used profanity but didn't follow-up to see the context that these words were used in. Therefore, it can be concluded that a percentage of those tweets may not have been used in an abusive context.
Twitter is reviewing its user policy regarding online abuse after the daughter of late actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered harassment from trolls, which caused her to quit social media.