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New Survey on Online Harassment Reveals that Efforts by Social Media Networks Have Failed to Stop Online Bullying and Threats

Almost Half (47%) of Millennials Report Being Harassed On Social Media

SAN FRANCISCO – A comprehensive survey of adult Americans released today by Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and craigconnects, Rad Campaign, and Lincoln Park Strategies, shows that bullying, harassment, and threatening behavior on social networks has remained roughly the same over two years (22% in 2016 compared to 25% in 2014) despite efforts by social media companies to curb harassment. The survey is the follow up to a poll conducted around online harassment in 2014.

While overall experience of harassment remained constant, pollsters noted changes in the form of harassment over the two year period. Sexual harassment showed a decline by almost half (falling from 44% in 2014, to 27% in 2016), while political harassment almost doubled from 16% in 2014 to 30% in 2016, leading up to the U.S. Presidential Election.

Findings further revealed that almost three-quarters of millennials (72%) are harassed online by someone they know, not by strangers. And, more than half of all online harassment (63%) is happening on Facebook.

“Social media networks are not being very successful stopping this problem from the top-down, but they can’t do it alone,” said Craig Newmark, whose craigconnects initiative supports online civic engagement. “It’s up to all of us as users to do our part to report bad actors and to encourage civility. ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated’ applies online, just as it does in the real world.”

“What we’re seeing by examining trends longitudinally is that online harassment is not an easy fix. Despite some efforts by social networks to incorporate policies to stop online harassment, the problem is not going away,” said social media consultant, Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign, a partner with Newmark in the poll. “Clearly we need to institute better tools, algorithms, and policies to support and empower people online, such as better methods for reporting harassment, as well as more effective and timely responses from the social networks themselves.”

An infographic by Rad Campaign illustrating the survey’s findings is available at Key findings include:

  • Boomers experience political harassment more than any other generation. More than three-quarters of adults ages 55-64 who are harassed online experience political harassment (79%).
  • Across all platforms, Facebook is the dominant location for harassment, even among heavy Twitter users.
  • Tinder users report the highest levels of online harassment. 62% of daily Tinder users (three-quarters of whom are Millennials) say that they’ve been harassed online.
  • Harassment is not anonymous. In almost two out of three instances (61%), respondents report knowing their harassers.
  • Younger people are harassed more than older. 47% of millennials have either personally experienced harassment, or know someone who has. This percentage remains unchanged since 2014, despite policies implemented by social networks to address it.
  • Women are harassed more than men. Of adults who reported harassment in 2016, 55% are women; 45% are men. The number for women is slightly down from 2014; for men slightly up.
  • Harassment via email has increased. As more people use email daily, email harassment has risen from 20% to 25% from 2014 to 2016.

“While there are a few pieces of good news in the data, overall we still have a long way to go to solve this pressing problem,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “Given the amount of attention that online harassment has received over the past couple years since we polled in 2014, we would expect to see more dramatic shifts in the numbers, but that was not the case. If companies, and we as individuals, are looking to truly solve this problem, we are going to need to rethink our approach.”

The poll, spearheaded by Craig Newmark though his craigconnects initiative, was created in partnership with Rad Campaign and conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies. 1,017 Americans ages 18 and over were polled about their experiences with online harassment. The margin of error is ±3.07 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.