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New Poll Details Widespread Harassment Online, Especially on Facebook

Women Affected More than Men; Sexual Harassment Is Most Common

WASHINGTON – Almost 50% of Americans under the age of 35 have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, or know somebody who has, according to a new poll published today exposing the ugly underbelly of social media. Women are targeted more often than men, and Facebook is by far the most common forum for such harassment.

The poll, released by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and Craig Newmark of craigconnects, shows that harassment is pervasive across the entire population, affecting 25% of all Americans. Among those under 35, the number shoots up to 47%. “The first step toward dealing with unacceptable behavior: understand the problem, then we can get rid of it,” Craig Newmark remarked as to why he supported the survey.

Women report being personally harassed much more often than men – the gender gap is 57% women to 43% men across all age groups – and sexual harassment is the most common form (44% of all incidences), followed by slurs on a person’s professional ability (28%), then racial (23%), religious (18%) and political (16%) insults. The level of sexual harassment is virtually identical between men (44%) and women (43%).

A startling 62% of respondents who said they’d been harassed online said it happened on Facebook. Twitter came in a distant second at 24%. The poll found significant effects of the harassment, including people who said they were scared for their life (29% of those harassed) and were afraid to leave their house (20%).

More than two-thirds (67%) of those harassed online said they knew their harasser in real life. In the under- 35 age group, that number rose to 72%.

"Some people may think the Internet is a place where they can threaten people without consequences, but online harassment has horrifying real-life effects. About 30% of people who are harassed online say that they fear for their lives," said Allyson Kapin, co-founder partner of Rad Campaign, which harnesses the power of the web to push political advocacy and social change.

"These poll results show the need for effective responses to the problem at all levels."

One thing people do not appear to do enough in response to harassment is to report it to the social network where it occurred. The polls shows that users reported harassment in only 25% of cases, yet the social networks themselves appear to react when called upon – in 61% of cases, according to the poll, the network shut down the offender’s account.

"We are surprised that there has been so little public research on this topic given the role of social media in most of our lives,” said Stefan Hankin, President of Lincoln Park Strategies. “With the high levels of harassment reported by those under 35, this problem will likely continue to grow if not addressed. We hope this poll will provide the needed data to take action."

These results are based on a survey of 1,007 Americans over 18 conducted online from May 20-22, 2014. Margin of error is approximately ±3.09% at the 95% confidence level. A detailed infographic on the report is available at The data will also be discussed at a Personal Democracy Forum panel entitled Sex, Lies, and the Internet beginning at 2:00 pm ET on Thursday, June 5th with Allyson Kapin.