Preliminary results from a study of online harassment reveal that the most popular venue for harassment, stalking and other abuse is Facebook. And it's fairly common for online harassers to target their victims for over a year.
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These statistics come from one of the first studies ever undertaken of online harassment. Authors of the study, including two psychology researchers and one attorney, caution that this is just preliminary data, and that many more studies need to be done before we can truly understand the extent of online harassment, as well as what forms it typically takes. Still, it's fascinating to see what they learned last year, from over 350 people who took an extensive survey about their experiences with online harassment.
Typically, harassment lasts for less than three months, but many respondents also reported harassment that lasted 1-3 years. The vast majority of people reporting harassment in this survey were women, and harassment encompassed a wide range of behaviors from posting non-consensual pornographic images ("revenge porn") on social media to e-mailing death threats.
Facebook is the most common social network where harassment takes place, followed closely by email, forums and blogs.
Mostly, the effects of the harassment were emotional, with 92 percent of respondents saying it affected their mood (the most common reactions were anger, sadness, and fear). But 10% of respondents said the harassment had cost them $10,000 or more, due mainly to losing employment, negative impact on job performance, or losing clients.
Many people changed the way they interact with technology as a result of harassment. Reflecting the popularity of Facebook, the most common response was to change privacy settings or to remove friends and contacts associated with the harasser(s). Other people opted to stay off social media for a while, avoid certain websites, or to create new accounts on IM, social networks, and blogs.
How did the harassment end? For people who took action to stop it, the most effective strategies seemed to be ignoring the harasser, going to the police, asking the service provider to intervene, or simply asking the harasser to stop.
You can read the whole study right here.