Today in tragic non-surprises: an Australian study finds that online harassment of women has very nearly become the “established norm.” Women under 30 are especially susceptible.

The Guardian reports:

“Nearly half the 1,000 respondents in the research by the digital security firm Norton had experienced some form of abuse or harassment online. Among women under 30, the incidence was 76%.

Harassment ranged from unwanted contact, trolling, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of rape and death. Women under 30 were overrepresented in every category.

One in seven—and one in four women aged under 30—had received general threats of physical violence. Almost one in ten women under 30 had experienced revenge porn and/or ‘sextortion.’

The online quantitative survey was carried out with 1,053 women in Australia aged 18 and over in February this year.”

Norton conducted a similar study on “men’s experience of harassment online” and found that women were singled out as targets significantly more often. Indeed, women “receive twice as many death threats and threats of sexual violence as men.” Those identifying as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender women are especially prone to attack: “one in four...who had suffered serious harassment online said their orientation had been the target.”

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Harassers also often rely on the well-worn tactic of belittling women’s physical appearance; researchers found that one in five women have been subjected to this form of online abuse.

In particular, social media platforms have devolved into breeding grounds for violence against women. Sixty-six percent of reported harassment cases occur there, “three times as many as by email (22 percent) or text (17 percent).” Twitter in particular can become a perilous space, and users have been clamoring for a meaningful response from the company. According to the Guardian, the website “announced in February a renewed push to tackle abuse and threats made on the network. Around the same time Facebook launched a tool to offer support to users perceived to be at risk of suicide.”

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A second study surveyed “1,000 women working in the Australian media” and found that “more than 40 percent had been harassed on social media in the course of their work.”

According to reports, numerous women experienced depression as a result of online attacks. Five percent became suicidal.


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