New Poll Reveals: Online Harassment's Still A Problem Despite Action Taken By Social Networks

New Poll Reveals: Online Harassment's Still A Problem Despite Action Taken By Social Networks


Folks, two years ago, we polled 1,007 Americans to figure out how much people were harassed online. We recently conducted a comparison poll to see how things have changed. We put the data we gathered into an infographic, which you can check out here. Our question: Are social media outlets doing enough to keep harassers out?

What we’ve discovered is that sexual harassment has decreased, but political harassment’s up from 16% to 30%. You may have heard about Ghostbusters 2 star Leslie Jones and her terrible experiences with online harassment, particularly racist and sexist hate speech. In an interview with Seth Meyers, Jones said she teamed up with the CEO of Twitter to get several accounts shut down. Now, she’s making an effort to distinguish the difference between hate speech and freedom of speech.

Our poll also revealed that the majority of people who are harassed online are people of color. That’s really concerning and illustrates why we need to do better.

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We also found that women want stricter laws to stop online harassment. In 2014, we found that the same percentage of men and women (16%) thought online harassment laws were “just right.” This year, 16% of men and only 9% women are content with current laws regarding online harassment. 

“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 in the online harassment 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.”

Here are some key findings from the 2016 poll:

  • 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 (3/4 of whom are millennials) say that they’ve been harassed online.
  • Harassment is not anonymous. In almost 2 out of 3 instances (61%), respondents report knowing their harassers.
  • Younger people are harassed more than older folks.  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 this.
  • 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 this issue has received over the past couple years, we would expect to see more dramatic shifts in the numbers, but that was not the case. If companies and individuals are looking to truly solve this problem, we are going to need to rethink our approach.”

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Folks, we’ve got to continue to speak out about online harassment. It’s up to all of us to do our part, to report bad actors and encourage civility. The social media networks can’t do it alone, though they’ve definitely got their work cut out for them. What suggestions do you have for combating online harassment?

The poll was conducted by Craig Newmark's craigconnects initiative, Rad Campaign, and 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.



Ellen Lattz

The words, harassment, and racism both get bandied about a lot. Sometimes they are used accurately, but other times, they are used as a defense where no offense was located. Perception is a funny thing. Sometimes you see accurately, or nearly accurately, and other times your vision, or perception of things is distorted. Perception is not reality. It's a view received through a lens with filters on it.
When I saw the results of your surveys, I wondered how effective the survey was at getting past the filters for a clear view.
Still, even if there isn't a clear view, the results of your survey do paint a picture of the atmospherics we live in. The perceptions of harassment and racism are just as important as any actual levels, since there are reactions to those perceptions. That is concerning. If you walk around in any large city, and interact with any number of people, you will find that the atmospherics are pretty dismal, where it comes to reactions to perceived harassment and/or racism. And it goes both ways, always.


If a person feels harassed, it's on the rest of the world to listen to their side, to understand why.

Victim blaming is what the above presents—and that's half the problem. Sometimes malice is involved with harassment, but other times it's not—and in those situations the root "cause" is an absence of self-awareness (or general cultural ignorance) on the part of the harasser.

Individuals are legitimately hurt w/o the rest of the world caring why, far (FAR) more often than folks falsely claiming hurt to glean attention. It's a paltry excuse for the rest of the world to cry the latter, that underscores more of a disinterest in listening or critical self-evaluation than a sincere interest in each of us doing our part to all get along better.

Let's all take that big bite of humble-pie, listen, and try to learn more about ourselves and each other, before invalidating points of view we don't understand. Self-righteousness is only tearing us apart, not bringing folks together.

Kitty Coyne

Hi Craig,
Regarding online harassment I think the internet is a place where bullies can be themselves to the extreme. Online has no face to face and people act out emotions faster then they would in public, at home or work.

I have seen many families, friends or their friends get bullied more so with the election. It is a free speech platform. I myself have been called names for giving opinions others don't agree with. Such as media stories that are controversial.

I have seen families fight, love and grieve on FB It is a controllable medium though. The block button works fantastic if one should become harassed or even just feel bothered. I have used that button as well not too many times but felt better knowing a certain person did not have access to my life events.

I do believe that harassment is very much a problem with teens. I believe their should be a bully button for those feeling they are bullied by a person , at school, events, etc. I think when a bully button is pressed it sends a notice to parents. Bullying should come with harsh consequences.

I think a teen facebook could help. Could be monitored for bullying better. I myself am raising 3 young ladies that are pre teen. Next year I have the decision as to whether to let them participate in FB. Monitoring is the best to keep up with what children are doing. I am finding over trial and error that limiting computer time to be an effective way to get them to spend quality time with each other or doing other things they enjoy.

I am not for limiting free speech in any platform. I believe bullies are not just on the internet though it has given them a full playground for their psychotic issues. I do believe there should be harsh punishment for those who bully.

I have always used the phrase to explain to my children that "Sticks and stones will break your bones and words will forever hurt you". be mindful of others feelings in the words you speak".

A parent should have a set of tools to use to monitor their children. maybe even ones that pick up on certain words that would send a red flag to the parents or admin. I am sure there is an app somewhere that already exists for this.

Jennifer Grozelle

It's too bad that some people only open their mouths to bitch, whine, complain, swear, talk dirty, insult, scorn, ridicule, and make fun of. It comes with not having a sense of humour and laughing, which are for free.


Harassment on Facebook is awful, awful, awful. Kids are often the targets. Trying to get help from Facebook in these matters is impossible. And often the bullies report the accounts of their child victims, and the victim's account ends up locked.

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