When it comes to online harassment, Americans have different ideas of where to draw the line.
According to a newly published Pew Research Center survey, Americans broadly agree that explicit personal threats are harassment, but are more divided on behaviors like publicly sharing private information or insulting the recipient with “unkind words.”
Survey: Americans have high bar for what’s online harassment
To test American attitudes of online harassment, the March survey of 4,151 U.S. adults presented respondents with a fictional scenario of escalating online interactions that had the growing potential for violence. Here’s one scenario the participants were shown:
“Julie posts on her social media account, defending one side of a controversial political issue. A few people reply to her, with some supporting and some opposing her. As more people see her post, Julie receives unkind messages. Eventually her post is shared by a popular blogger with thousands of followers, and Julie receives vulgar messages that insult her looks and sexual behavior. She also notices people posting pictures of her that have been edited to include sexual images. Eventually, she receives threatening messages.”
The vast majority — 89% — of those surveyed said that somewhere in this scenario Julie experienced harassment, but they were more divided on where the harassment had occurred. Only one in five respondents thought a blogger making Julie’s post go viral was harassment. The participants were split on whether unkind messages constituted harassment, with 43% answering that it was.
More than two-thirds of participants were willing to concede that “vulgar messages,” photoshopping Julie’s likeness to include sexual content, and explicit threats were harassment.
When the gender of the person in the scenario was changed, it did not significantly change participants’ attitudes of whether an incident of harassment had occurred. Female respondents, however, were three times Read More Here