More Than One-Third of Americans Experience Severe Online Hate and Harassment, New ADL Study Finds

Study shows bipartisan support for policymakers and tech companies to take action to combat online hate and harassment
Computer keyboard

New York, February 13, 2019 … Thirty-seven percent of Americans experienced severe online hate and harassment in 2018, including sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats or sustained harassment, according to a new study released today by ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). This is a big increase from the 18 percent who reported such experiences in 2017.

Platforms varied significantly in terms of harassment. Of all respondents who were harassed online, 56 percent reported that at least some of their harassment occurred on Facebook. Smaller shares experienced harassment or hate on Twitter (19 percent), YouTube (17 percent), Instagram (16 percent) and WhatsApp (13 percent). When limited to daily users of platforms, the survey found that nearly half (47 percent) of all daily users on the streaming gaming site Twitch have experienced harassment, followed by Reddit (38 percent), Facebook (37 percent) and Discord (36 percent).

“It’s deeply disturbing to see how prevalent online hate is, and how it affects so many Americans,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “Cyberhate is not limited to what’s solely behind a screen; it can have grave effects on the quality of everyday lives – both online and offline. People are experiencing hate and harassment online every day and some are even changing their habits to avoid contact with their harassers.”

Over 80 percent of Americans want policymakers to strengthen laws and improve training and resources for police on cyberhate. Additionally, 84 percent said they want to see private technology companies take more decisive action to counter online hate and harassment. This strong support exists regardless of whether an individual has previously experienced online hate and harassment. This support is also bipartisan: Although liberal respondents reported even greater agreement with the actions, conservatives overwhelmingly supported the actions as well.

ADL’s report includes detailed recommendations for actions policymakers and technology companies can take to reduce hateful content and harassing behavior online.

“More must be done in our society to lessen the prevalence of cyberhate,” said Greenblatt. “There are key actions every sector can take to help ensure more Americans are not subjected to this kind of behavior. The only way we can combat online hate is by working together, and that’s what ADL is dedicated to doing every day.”

The survey of 1,134 individuals was conducted from Dec. 17 to Dec. 27, 2018 by YouGov, a leading public opinion and data analytics firm, on behalf of ADL’s Center for Technology and Society to examine Americans’ experiences with, and views of, online hate and harassment. In an effort to understand the experiences of individuals who may be especially targeted because of their group identity, the survey included oversampling of respondents who identified as Jewish, Muslim, African American, Asian American or LGBTQ+. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

Fifty-three percent of Americans report having experienced any type of online hate and harassment. Most prevalent are milder forms of harassment: 41 percent of Americans reported being subjected to offensive name calling and 33 percent reported having been embarrassed on purpose.

Sixty-three percent of those who identified as LGBTQ+ experienced harassment online because of their identity. This was followed by Muslims (35 percent), Hispanics (30 percent), African-Americans (27 percent), women (24 percent), Asian-Americans (20 percent) and Jews (16 percent).

As a result of respondents’ experiences with online hate and harassment, 38 percent stopped, reduced or changed online activities, while 18 percent tried to contact the platform directly, 15 percent took steps to reduce risk to their physical safety, and 6 percent contacted the police to ask for help or report online hate or harassment. More than half of Americans — 59 percent — believe that online hate and harassment are making hate crimes more common.

Building on ADL’s century of experience building a world without hate, the Center for Technology and Society (CTS) serves as a resource to tech platforms and develops proactive solutions to fight hate both online and offline. CTS works at the intersection of technology and civil rights through education, research and advocacy.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.

More from this Section