Study Shows Online Harassment Prevalent, Especially for Women

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Washington Post / Amazon

In the midst of the ongoing controversy of GamerGate and the varying instances of harassment, threats and doxxing of women in the gaming industry, a recent study indicates that online harassment is prevalent across both social media and gaming, especially for women.

The Pew Research Center's American Trends Panel administered a survey conducted to nearly 3,000 people to assess the personal experiences they had with varying forms of online harassment. The survey was administered online from May 30 to June 30 and researchers have found that 73 percent of all adult Internet users have seen someone harassed online and 40 percent have personally experienced it. 53 percent have seen efforts to purposefully embarrass someone. 19 percent claim they have personally witnessed sexual harassment online as well.

The survey suggests that men are actually more likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment while women are much more subject to sexual harassment and stalking. While social media is the most common area for both stalking and harassment, many survey takers highlight online gaming areas and forums/comment sections as common areas to experience and witness harassment.

Pew's survey indicates that young women ages 18-24 have experienced varying types of harassment at disproportionately high levels, with 26 percent being stalked online and 25 percent being the target of online harassment, with many of these victims encountering physical threats as well.

Out of those people who reported experiencing online harassment, 66 percent claimed that the most recent incident took place on a social networking site or app (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). 22 percent claim that the harassment took part in the comments section of a website (including YouTube). 16 percent specifically named online gaming as the source of the harassment.

The survey reports that most online environments (social media, message boards, comment sections, etc.) were viewed as being equally welcoming towards men and women, with online gaming being the big exception.

44 percent of all Internet users who took the survey believe that online gaming is more welcoming towards men, with only 3 percent believing that women are more welcome and the rest claiming that it is equally welcoming to both genders. Out of the women who took the survey, 55 percent believe that online gaming is equally welcoming to both genders and 40 percent believe it is more welcoming to men. 49 percent of the male survey takers believe that online gaming is more welcoming to men compared to the 40 percent of men believing that it is more welcoming towards women.

Regardless of what these statistics mean to you, there is no doubt that the Internet makes it much easier for someone to be disparaging and derogatory towards another person.

With all of the outside attention the gaming community has gotten from various controversies (ranging from violence, DRM, sexual themes, sexism and many more topics), the spotlight is on the gaming community -- we're all in this together. If we want gamers to stop being painted in a negative light, we've got to take the higher road and prove the naysayers wrong.

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