Women Are More Likely to Experience Harassment Online

They are victims in 70 percent of reported online harassment cases

By: Amanda Scott, Nov 27, 2018

When online in any capacity, it’s essentially routine to encounter hateful, intolerant and abusive comments. It seems to be standard practice on the Internet these days. In fact, a 2016 survey found that 47 percent of Americans who used the Internet had been victims of online harassment of some kind.

You don’t even have to comment to be on the receiving-end of this type of harassment, especially if you are female.

The same 2016 survey found that one in 25 Americans who use the Internet – about 10 million people – had explicit images of themselves shared online against their will or were threatened with such image sharing. For women younger than 30, it was one in 10.

According to Working to Halt Online Abuse, female victims of online harassment comprised 70 percent of the 4,043 reported cases of abuse to the organization from 2000 to 2013.

In 2006, University of Maryland students conducted a study in which they created fake online accounts and dispatched them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames received an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day; masculine usernames received only 3.7 on average.

Marie K. Shanahan, associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut describes a woman’s experience of “wading into the incivility of online comments or social media exchanges is like walking alone down a scary back alley, or into an angry mob with torches and pitchforks.”

Unfortunately, online harassment and abuse isn’t always taken very seriously. University of Maryland law professor Danielle Citron found that internet harassment is routinely dismissed as “harmless locker-room talk,” perpetrators as “juvenile pranksters,” and victims as “overly sensitive complainers.” Oftentimes, the internet is treated as fantasyland.