Online harassment is plaguing more victims – CNET

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Pew Research Center

It’s no secret that the internet can be a cesspool of hate. From the harassment of GamerGate to cartoon characters being turned into hurtful memes, the onslaught is a daily occurrence on social media and comment threads all over the web.

And now a new study from the Pew Research Center shows that upwards of 41 percent of all Americans have been victimized.

These cases vary in harshness — ranging from more minor instances like name-calling to much more serious ones like sexual harassment. The less severe instances proved to be a bit more common among the US adults polled.

Reasons for harassment vary, too. Politics is the biggest influencer — making up 14 percent of the poll — but physical traits like race and gender aren’t far behind. And not surprisingly, it’s happening most among younger generations — ages 18 to 29: two-thirds of that age group have been harassed online, according to the study.

Victims aren’t the only one being harmed. Social media platforms have proven to be the most common battlegrounds for this behavior and have taken a hit, too — 1-in-10 people said they stopped using these online services after witnessing an act of harassment.

While Americans can’t seem to decide the best form of action or how to balance free speech and safety, the majority (79 percent) believe it’s the duty of these online platforms to step in and address harassment when it occurs. 

See CNET’s special report for more on the history, responses and reactions to the increasing trend of online hate. 

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