This past summer, comedian Leslie Jones quit Twitter. After facing intense online abuse, the harassment reached a breaking point around the time of the premiere for her film, “Ghostbusters.”
She left Twitter saying, “OK I have been called Apes, sent pics of their asses, even got a pic with semen on my face. I’m tryin’ to figure out what human means. I’m out.”
While she didn’t stay off the site permanently, she stands as a high-profile example of someone who has faced online abuse. Unfortunately, she is not that only one.
In fact, about 47% of Americans have faced some form of online harassment, according to a study published by the Data and Society Research Institute on Monday.
They conducted the study by randomly calling Americans and asking about 20 different harassing behaviours. In the end, over 3,000 participated in the survey, with nearly half claiming they personally experienced these harassing behaviours.
“I was intrigued by the finding that shows that men and woman are equally likely to experience at least one of about 20 types of online harassment,” research lead Amanda Lenhart said in an interview with Business Insider. “But when you drill down, you see the kinds of harassment that men and women experience are really quite different.”
While men generally experienced more name-calling, women, on the other hand, were much more likely to experience sexual harassment, harassment over a long period of time, cyber-stalking, and exposure of their sensitive personal information that could have professional or financial consequences.
Women and minorities generally reported feeling scared and worried online much more frequently than men.
How we can try to combat this harassment is still unclear. Tech giants like Twitter and Google have come out recently with methods to decrease abuse. Even Leslie Jones acknowledged that Twitter helped delete some of the worst abusers.
Yet Lenhart isn’t sure that’s enough: “I think we need more technological solutions certainly, but I don’t think that’s the only thing,” she said. “There may be a broader need for a more social conversation. We need to explore additional options for how to make these spaces more hospitable to more people.”