Online harassment is as old as the internet. However, where it was once rare and infrequent, it is now increasingly common. The data all points in one direction and is compiled here.
Admittedly, we didn’t know much about this at Speechly before 2022. Our main focus has been on building a fast, accurate, and efficient voice user interface for applications. However, during our time in the Y Combinator accelerator, several companies suggested they could use our technology to help them moderate voice chat and content in games, metaverses, and other applications. So, we began studying the problem.
What we found was a compelling issue with plenty of challenges and few good options. There were several solutions for text chat moderation, but companies had learned that voice moderation was either prohibitively expensive or too inaccurate to implement with any confidence. That led us to apply Speechly to the voice moderation problem.
In our own efforts to understand the problem better, we came across a number of interesting studies that we thought might be useful if you are also researching online harassment. Below is a compilation of research on the topic. We will update this post as new studies are released and learn about earlier data.
Let us know what we missed. Please drop a link using our Contact Us form, and we will add it here. We hope the data here proves useful in your work!
Pew Research on Online Harassment
Pew Research has been tracking online harassment since 2014 and has some useful trendline information along with insightful recent findings.
TLDR Takeaways from Pew Research:
41% of U.S. adults have personally experienced online harassment, and 25% have experienced more severe harassment.
The majority of younger adults have encountered harassment online.
While men are slightly more likely to experience harassment online, women are more likely to be upset about it and think its a major problem.
Experience with certain types of online abuse varies by age, gender, race or ethnicity.
Roughly four-in-ten Americans have personally experienced online harassment.
Women are more likely than men to be harassed online. The total accounts of online sexual harassment have doubled since 2017.
Social media is the most common location for online harassment. However, for men harassment is more likely to take place in online gaming.
Younger adults are more likely to have been harassed online while gaming, text/messaging app, or online dating vs on a forum, social media, or in personal email.
55% of Americans consider online harassment to be a major problem.
Users are becoming critical of the job social media companies are doing to address online harassment.
ADL on Online Harassment in Social Media
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has also conducted extensive research into online harassment. The organization produces two reports, one for online harassment overall with a particular focus on social media, and another for gaming. The 2022 and earlier reports for social media shed new light on the problem.
TLDR Takeaways from ADL Online Hate and Harassment Survey:
Online harassment has remained stable across platforms since 2020 despite tech companies public commitment to improve safety on their platforms.
In response to being harassed, almost a third of users (29%) stopped or reduced their use of platforms altogether, especially Facebook (19% reduced their use, and 10% stopped altogether).
Youth are more likely to report harassment on Instagram and Snapchat vs Facebook than adults.
The data suggests that harassment was less common on Twitter than on Facebook, more common than on YouTube or Reddit, and comparable to the likelihood of being harassed on Instagram.
Comparing Harassment vs Use you are most likely to experience harassment on Facebook (81%) followed by Twitter (44%), Snapchat (41%), Instagram (37%), Discord (35%), TikTok (31%), Twitch (26%), Youtube (21%), and Reddit (18%).
More than a third (37%) of women reported being harassed at some point compared to 43% of men.
Of those worried about future harassment, 62% were worried about being harassed for their political views, 53% for their physical appearance, 47% for their race or ethnicity, 44% for their religion, and 43% for their gender.
Of the respondents who faced physical threats 53% said they reported the content; only half of those reports led to any action by the platform.
A third of respondents who were harassed reported being called offensive names.
ADL on Online Harassment in Gaming
ADL also has extensive data on online gaming experiences. These include survey results that express both positive and negative experiences.
TLDR Takeaways from ADL Hate is No Game Survey:
The vast majority of young gamers—more than nine out of ten—reported some form of positive social experience in online multiplayer games.
Online games at their best can function as social platforms connecting people and building communities for a multitude of lived experiences.
For the third consecutive year, harassment in online games has not decreased. Five out of six adult gamers experience harassment in online multiplayer games—more than 80 million American adults.
Three in five young people experienced harassment in online multiplayer games—nearly 14 million young gamers.
Over a quarter of young gamers who experienced harassment in online multiplayer games quit specific games.
A third of young gamers changed how they play, including not speaking in voice chat and altering their usernames. Voice chat is notorious for being a significant locus of in-game abuse.
The most common responses to exposure to extremism and disinformation were ignoring it (18%) and reporting or blocking the players involved (17%).
Less than half of parents or guardians surveyed reported having implemented the safety controls in online multiplayer games that were analyzed in this survey.
The Experience of Women Gamers
You can see from some of the data above that women’s experience with harassment while gaming differs from men. Some examples of additional data are included below.
TLDR Takeaways on Experience of Women Gamers:
Women make up a large % of online gamers with the split being 52% Male and 48% Female.
Despite a lot of women playing games, the majority of game developers are Male - with 76% Male and 22% Female.
In the U.K. online harassment from men towards women is causing women to stop playing games altogether.
Online harassment towards women is so common that 59% of women mask their gender while playing games online.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: Pexels
Speechly is a YC backed company building tools for speech recognition and natural language understanding. Speechly offers flexible deployment options (cloud, on-premise, and on-device), super accurate custom models for any domain, privacy and scalability for hundreds of thousands of hours of audio.
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