ADL reports sharp increase in cyber-hate in 2018

Online hate and harassment are on the rise in the US with 37% of Americans reporting it in 2018, an ADL study finds.

February 13, 2019 13:39
A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye

A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye. (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION/FILE PHOTO)


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Cyber-hate is on the rise in the US, with 37% of Americans reporting they experienced online hatred in 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

The number reflects an increase of 105% from a 2017 Pew research study, which evaluated the percentage of Americans experiencing cyber-hate at 18%.

Cyber-hate is an umbrella term that includes sexual harassment, stalking and physical threats which originate or occur online.

The bulk of the harassment seems to have taken place on Facebook, with 56% of respondents reporting harassment on the social platform. Some 19% experienced harassment on Twitter, 17% on YouTube and 16% on Instagram, according to the report.

Among people who use digital platforms every day, 46% of those who use Twitch, a popular gaming site, reported harassment, followed by 38% of Reddit users.

ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt warned, “Cyber-hate 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.”

Victims’ rights attorney Carrie Goldberg recently won a lawsuit against Grinder. She defended a man whose ex-partner used the dating app to harass him. The partner created fake profiles of her client, which led a series of strangers to believe that the man was interested in dating them. The strangers then approached the man work and at home for the unexpected dates, according to a report by relationship advice columnist Dan Savage.

Despite repeated requests, Grinder refused to bar the offending ex-partner from its platform until the company was forced to do so by the court.

The report said that while there is a “social” value to online communication platforms, they can also be used in toxic ways.

In May 2016, Oceane, a 19-year-old woman in France, streamed her own suicide via the social app Periscope, the BBC reported. According to The Guardian, it was the first recorded case of someone committing suicide on social media. 

The ADL study likewise showed that more than 80% of Americans want policy-makers to strengthen laws, and to improve training and resources for police in the realm of cyber-hate. Support for these efforts has been expressed by both Republican and Democratic politicians.

The study, conducted by YouGov for ADL’s Center for Technology and Society, included 1,134 individuals interviewed over a 10-day period.

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