Anti-Defamation League Survey: In 2018, 37% of Americans say they have been victims of serious online harassment, including criminal harassment and physical threats.


Despite the concerted efforts of technology giants to reduce heinous behavior on their platforms, a new survey reveals that serious forms of online hatred and harassment, including criminal harassment and physical threats, may be on the rise. According to the survey, released Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League, more than one-third of Americans said they were victims of a type of hate or serious online harassment in 2018. A similar report Pew Research Center found that 18% of Americans said they were targeting serious online harassment in 2017. For young people, the numbers are even worse, about half of 18-29 year olds reporting having experienced some form of serious online harassment in 2018.

The survey, conducted in December by the public opinion research company YouGov, paints a bleak picture of what millions of Americans experience when they connect online. At a time when Facebook is touting the use of automation to detect harassment, Twitter is committed to making the conversation on the site "healthier," and YouTube is attacking the videos This suggests that these efforts can not compete with an increasingly ugly and threatening public. tribal digital landscape.

"Online harassment is not a trivial matter that affects a small number of people, but many people, and much of this harassment is motivated by the identity of a group," said Adam Neufeld, Vice President of Innovation and Strategy at ADL. "It has real impacts."

The researchers deliberately designed the survey as a follow-up to Pew's report in 2017, which defined "serious harassment" as "physical threats, harassment over an extended period of time, sexual harassment or criminal harassment". The goal was to see how the harassing experience of people changed over time and compare different technology platforms. The ADL found that in 2018, Facebook was the biggest platform for this heinous behavior in terms of overall volume. 56% of respondents said they were harassed, against only 19% on Twitter, 17% on YouTube and 16%. percent on Instagram. Of course, there are also many more people on Facebook than any other platform.

"Online harassment is not a small thing for a small number of people, but rather for many people."

Adam Neufeld, Anti-Defamation League.

When the researchers again released the numbers, focusing only on the daily users of each platform, they found that the Twitch gaming network was at the top of the list, with 47% of daily users reporting a type of harassment, followed by Reddit, Facebook and chat. Discord app. Last year, Twitch updated its community guidelines to ensure that all hate behavior results in "immediate and indefinite suspension." This also applied to activities outside Twitch, but some users have reported an inefficient application of these rules.

"The community of players is increasingly aware that they have to fight against harassment and hatred on their platforms," ​​Neufeld said.

A total of 1,134 people participated in the survey, including a representative group of 800 people nationally and other sub-samples of people identified as Jewish, Muslim, African American, Asian or LGBTQ +. To calculate the experience of harassment at the national level, the researchers weighted each population against the national average. But they also looked at each subgroup separately to analyze how they experience this hate online.

Of all respondents across the country who reported being victims of extreme harassment and hate, 32% reported that this was due to their sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, their identity as gender or disability. The survey found that about 38% of people altered their own behavior by withdrawing from these platforms, dropping them altogether or posting less. Eighteen percent said they had asked tech companies to intervene, while 6% said they had consulted the police.

The genesis of this online abuse may differ from one person to the next, but respondents were relatively unified as to what should be done about it. About 80% of them said they supported laws protecting people from online abuse and wanted technology companies to do more to prevent them, including introducing keyword filters that would help eliminate hate content.

Today, Neufeld says even tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, who have recognized the problem of harassment on their platforms, are still taking what is needed from "small" businesses. additional steps "in relation to the type of checks requested by users.

"There are many tools and options that have been around for a long time, from tagging bots, to what many people want, or the ability to filter content, so the user can decide if he wants it to be something or a place where they are not insulted, "says Neufeld. Some platforms have put in place individual controls. Twitter, for example, allows users to disable certain words. But none, says Neufeld, has taken a sufficiently comprehensive approach.

This is the second survey released by the ADL in recent months, suggesting an increase in hate on the internet. In October, the non-profit organization released a report saying that the mid-term elections in the United States sparked a wave of anti-Semitic propaganda. The day after the report was released, a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Just before the attack, the killer posted a message on the right social network, Gab, accusing a nonprofit Jewish organization of allowing "invaders" to enter the United States. "I can not stand by and watch my people get slaughtered," he wrote. "Screw your optics. I go in."

Of course, the public tends to pay the closest attention to online hate when it comes to offline tragedies, says Neufeld. But these new results show the extent of damage done online only. "We notice the boils – Pittsburghs or Dylann Roof – but the soft fire itself is really important," he says. It affects the lives of millions of people. "

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