There are new data on online harassment that have been pooled from a survey conducted this year on American adults by Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects, Rad Campaign, and Lincoln Park Strategies. The results of the survey are somewhat disappointing because, despite the effort put forward by social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook in combating online harassment, there is still a lot to be done.
The data show that there has been only a slight decrease of overall online harassment, 22% in 2016 compared to 25% in 2014, and even an increase in some categories. Online harassment takes on many shapes and forms from sexual, to political, to bullying and threatening. For example, online sexual harassment has declined from 44% in 2014, to 27% in 2016, but political harassment has increased from 16% in 2014 to 30% in 2016, most likely as a result of the approaching U.S. Presidential Election. The group of online users who experience the most harassment are the millennials (18 to 34 years old), and women are harassed more than men (55% versus 45% of the harassed individuals). Interestingly, harassment in most cases is not anonymous but comes from somebody the harassed individual knows. Tinder and Facebook users report the most harassment and harassment by email is on the rise.
The results of the survey indicate that the top down approach used so far hasn’t achieved the desired results. Social media platforms have recently introduced strict regulations on harassment with straightforward reporting systems to flag and even suspend online bullies and abusers. However, these have not been fully effective. The new data call for a different approach where companies, interest groups, and users take on the responsibility to change the way we conduct ourselves online.
“Social media networks are not being very successful stopping this problem from the top-down, but they can’t do it alone,” Newmark says. “It’s up to all of us as users to do our part to report bad actors and to encourage civility.”
The general rules of social interactions that we apply in our everyday life should be applied online as well, with the very first rule being ‘treat others like you would like to be treated’.