Social media survey: Dems, women face most online harassment

A new study looking at harassment and social media find, not surprisingly, that women tend to feel more harassed online than men, and, interestingly, that people tend to feel most harassed on Facebook, by a large margin.

The study was contacted by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies, and Craig Newmark of craigconnects (he’s the founder of CraigsList).

Among the findings:

  • 57% of women report having been harassed online, versus 43% of men.
  • 52% of women under the age of 35 reported some form of harassment, versus 40% of men in the same age group.
  • Asians report the most harassment, in terms of racial categories, with 34%. Following by Hispanics with 32%, blacks 28%, and whites 23%.
  • A significantly larger percentage of Democrats, 29%, reported being harassed online than Republicans, 20%.

online-harassment-by-raceOne caveat before moving forward. Just because I say that I felt harassed does not mean that I was in fact harassed. (For example, this student, who prefers to go by the pronoun “it” (that’s an entirely separate essay in and of itself), claims that they were “obviously threatened” by a speaker at a recent public discussion. The facts, however, don’t seem to back up the student’s assertion. More from someone who was actually there.) The law has ample examples of cases where both sides felt they were in the right, and neither side agreed on the facts of the case, on what actually transpired. Sometimes, when I say I’m a victim, I sincerely mean it — and I’m wrong.

Now, having that said, I’ve always maintained that the Internet was uniquely situated to bring out the best and the worst in people. And ironically, both sides, the good and the bad, tend to show themselves in our dealings with strangers.

Say you were chatting with someone on a dating (or hook-up) site. Because the Internet affords you some measure of anonymity, you might feel more ease chatting/flirting online with someone you don’t know than you would feel in a real-life situation, at a bar, or a coffee shop. After all, it’s a lot less humiliating (or at least daunting) having someone not respond to your online “hello” than it is approaching a stranger in a bar and saying “hi,” only to find that they’re so not into you.

The irony, however, is that anonymity sometimes turns people into jerks too. I find, far too often, that people who don’t know me will contact me by email, or on Twitter, and be far more hurtful, antagonistic, and just generally assuming the worst of a situation, than they’d ever be in person. In the same way that people fear being turned down by someone they don’t know in a bar, they also fear being shut down by someone they’re being rude to in person. So it’s easier, I believe, for them to be rude im-person, and the Internet affords them that impersonality.

online-harassment-by-political-ideologySo I’m not surprised that the study finds a harassment problem online. I think it’s real. I was, however, surprised to find Facebook at the top of the list of sites where people feel harassed. I never feel harassed on Facebook. And I don’t see the kind of rudeness there that I even see (sometimes) in the comments section of my own Web site! In fact, I receive (perceive) far more rudeness by email, and let’s not even talk about YouTube. The comments sections at YouTube are simply vile, and seemingly unregulated. I’ve never seen anything like the kind of sexism, racism, homophobia and general nastiness that I regularly see in YouTube’s comment section.

Yet, YouTube comes in third on the list, far behind Facebook:

social-media-harassmentAnother interesting finding from the poll, women and men equally perceive being sexually harassed online. That one I didn’t expect:


Also, you’ll note from the image above, that there are other categories of harassment, including homophobic (coming in at 14% — Lord knows I’ve gotten that one).

In the end, it’s an interesting question as to whether people are more harassed online than they are offline, and if so, why. I do suspect that while people can be awfully rude in person (while driving, walking, or at work), the Internet sometimes inspires the worst in us. In part because of the anonymity, as noted above, but also because of group-think. Your “100 best anonymous friends you’ve never met” on Twitter tell you that you’re were just oppressed, so you believe it, and respond accordingly, by collectively pushing back against the perceived perpetrator, whether the slight was real, misconstrued, or simply based on one person’s lie that went viral.

And that’s the irony. Group-think could inflate the numbers for this poll. After all, anyone with a significant online presence is well-familiar with being accused of the latest -ism by a righteous online mob. (The Internet masses taught me, for example, that I hate animals, bisexuals, and soldiers. All of which was news to me.)

The thing is, sometimes numbers don’t prove you’re right. They simply prove that you’re a mob. A mob that, ironically, could end up being one of the biggest harassers of them all.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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19 Responses to “Social media survey: Dems, women face most online harassment”

  1. Moderator4 says:

    Thank you.

  2. cole3244 says:

    you are correct, although i support the lgbt community my empathy goes beyond the narrow focus some have here and i sense some annoyance with my comments so i promise i will not clog the blog anymore, be safe and be careful.

  3. Moderator4 says:

    Judybrowni, see our response to cole3244.
    Stop the insults and sniping. Both of you.

  4. Moderator4 says:

    Cole3244, you and judybrowni need to stop sniping at each other.
    You both disagree, everyone understands that, but flinging insults at each other does not advance the discourse, and only serves to clog the blog.

  5. cole3244 says:

    take a couple of aspirin get some sleep and call me in the morning, if you still have anger issues we can talk about them then.

    sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite, sweety.

  6. judybrowni says:

    Still whining, I see. Your poor fee fees got hurt by the truth.

    You can’t even get “freedom of speech” right! Must have fallen asleep in high school Civics class (as well as English — from Middle School on up, apparently.)

    The Constitution protects speech from government censorship: not from you being criticized for acting (and sounding) like an ass.

    All you’ve got is ad hominem (look it up.)

    Your nasty little imagination continues to fail you: about my life, as well as harassment against women, or any other real life topic, I suspect.

  7. cole3244 says:

    your ted nugent method of debating is unusual i agree but it shows a side of you best left in the dark recesses of your personality.

    anger management might be a course of action for you, besides you will meet many men there whom you will have much in common with but that is stating the obvious.

    take a few deep breaths and try to calm down before you say and do something you might regret later, if that is possible.

  8. judybrowni says:

    My writing wasn’t an “opinion” because it’s based on fact and experience: both my experince over 50 years, and that of countless women who have spoken and written about their experiece.
    Yours was an shiitty”opinion” based on nothing more than a bad supposition, and a lousy, harmful, victim-blaming one at that.
    First: Your cart before the horse logic (“something I imagine a woman does afte being harassed is the reason she was harassed.) illogicaly blames women for their own harassent!

  9. cole3244 says:

    well a different opinion than yours obviously calls for anger if not violence on you part, if more women were like you we wouldn’t have to protect women from men who are thugs we would have to protect men from angry females like you.

    i will have to see what the normal response to free speech in america is i hope yours isn’t the going example or we will have more violence and not all male initiated.

  10. judybrowni says:

    Thanks for the fucking mansplaining: you of course would know better never having been a woman.
    I’ve only had to deal with more than 50 years of this shit: hey what would I know? I’ve had to deal with harassers a foot

  11. Ninja0980 says:

    Sad to say, I have followed the comments section and it isn’t pretty.
    I respect their service to this country but they seem to think that gives them the green light to say any sexist, homophobic or racist thing they want with no blowback at all, which isn’t true.

  12. cole3244 says:

    i disagree, women generally are not comfortable with conflict just because of their makeup but also because they are not physically capable of confronting a man they realize it is not in their best interests to be confrontational, the fear factor.

    that’s why men who abuse or strike women are cowards and would not think of doing that to a man no matter how small he might be because he would naturally fight back and could inflict pain and harm the perpetrator.

    i think women would be much better off if they would fight back when attacked and i believe they would be surprised how a little anger by them would stop many men (cowards) from continuing an assault.

    i realize the first reaction a woman has when attacked is to cower and hope for mercy but that is the last thing to do and only makes it easier for a coward to continue with impunity, fighting back and making a lot of noise is the best defense as most people (men) avoid physical confrontation.

    isn’t it too bad that we even have to have this discussion today because of the violent nature of our world especially where it concerns women, who we all claim to respect and honor but the facts prove otherwise.

  13. judybrowni says:

    It’s not that women aren’t comfortable with conflict: it’s that we get more harassment because we’re women.

    On the street, at work, school, the internet, bars, u name it: it’s men who are comfortable harrassing women.

    We learn early on that the guys who harass are often angry to start with, and giving back what they dish out gives them the excuse to escalate, in person we have to fear physical violence.

    And for good reason: men are a leading cause of injury and death for women.

    I might stand up to an internet troll more readily, but having been stalked even that isn’t completely safe.

  14. Monte Logan says:

    This is accurate. Facebook and YouTube: DEFINITELY. Try following ArmyTimes or military times. You’ll end up losing a bit of respect for military members, retirees, and their families after a bit. Youtube just has trolls. someone just looking to hate on you for being alive. Tumblr is expected to be so few because it’s uncommon for there to be conservatives or racists or sexists or homophobes or any others and when there are and they make themselves known, it’s handled QUICKLY by the oppositions and fandoms there. they still exist though. Instagram is only when you follow people and page where it’s in the forefront or when it’s a page with nearly 1 million followers. I’m not on twitter, and I don’t really read most of the articles on linkedin.

  15. KelsQualeymit says:

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  16. UncleBucky says:

    It’s clear, the conservative right wing extremists have gotten the message that it’s ALL RIGHT to harass anyone to get their point across. The ENDS justify the MEANS. There. What’s that? I know, I know, teacher pick me! It’s…. ah crap. God wins again… ;o)

  17. cole3244 says:

    the way to stop harassment is to give back more than you get, that is the only thing harassers understand.

    i do realize that women generally are not comfortable with conflict and that is one reason they are the targets of harassment, by the chicken hawks i might add.

  18. Indigo says:

    Facebook has become an arena of harassment, probably at least in part because it is so widely used. I’ve noticed that a significant number of the hateful comments on my Facebook account happen on the Washington Post site. Isn’t that interesting? A few come from a Facebook friend who happens to be an acquaintance but he’s such a crazed fright winger that it’s to be expected. It doesn’t count as harassment so much as ignorance.

  19. pappyvet says:

    Not really surprised by the numbers. Saddened but not surprised

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