More than half of Americans surveyed in an Anti-Defamation League poll said they were harassed online during 2018, and even more believe that behavior has caused an increase in hate crimes occurring off the internet, according to the results released on Wednesday.
Fifty-three percent of people surveyed on behalf of the ADL watchdog group said they experienced some form of online harassment in 2018, up 18 percent from the results of a similarly worded question asked by the Pew Research Center in 2017.
More than one-third of respondents, 37 percent, said they were subjected last year to “severe harassment,” described as conduct including physical threats, sexual harassment, stalking and sustained harassment, the watchdog reported.
Fifty-nine percent, meanwhile, said they believe online harassment is “making hate crimes more common,” the report said.
“It’s deeply disturbing to see how prevalent online hate is, and how it affects so many Americans,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the ADL’s chief executive officer. “Cyberhate 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. People are experiencing hate and harassment online every day and some are even changing their habits to avoid contact with their harassers.”
Indeed, a fair share of respondents reported taking measures online and off as a result of being digitally harassed, the poll revealed. Fifteen percent of respondents said they subsequently took steps to reduce risks to their physical safety, such as relocating, changing commutes and learning self-defense, while 6 percent reported contacting law enforcement.
The vast majority of respondents — 84 percent — said that private tech firms need to be more decisive in countering online harassment, according to the ADL’s poll.
“More must be done in our society to lessen the prevalence of cyberhate,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “There are key actions every sector can take to help ensure more Americans are not subjected to this kind of behavior. The only way we can combat online hate is by working together, and that’s what ADL is dedicated to doing every day.”
The results of the ADL’s report are based on polling conducted by YouGov, a public opinion and data analytics firm that surveyed 1,134 individuals on behalf of the ADL late last year.
The number of incidents reported annually to the FBI as hate crimes have increased steadily during the last several years, growing from 5,850 in 2015, to 6,121 in 2016 and 7,175 in 2017, according to the FBI’s own accounting. Statistics for 2018 have not yet been published.