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Social Media Hate, Harassment Seen As Inspiring Real-World Violence

More than half of Americans have experienced hate or harassment online, finds a new survey from the Anti-Defamation League, with a dramatic rise in incidents over the last 12 months, especially among teens, Axios reports. Experts say what happens online is causing significant real-world harm and keeping many people from fully participating in an increasingly digital society. The increases in harassment were seen in almost all demographics but were particularly pronounced among underrepresented religious and ethnic groups as well as LGBTQ+ people. The highest level of online hate and harassment reported was among transgender Americans, with three quarters saying they had been harassed at some point and more than half saying they had been targeted in the past year. Rates were also high among Blacks and Muslims, with 38% of both groups reporting being the subject of attacks over the last 12 months.

More than half of those who reported being harassed said they were targeted on Facebook. The number of people reporting harassment on Twitter and Reddit was up significantly from the prior year. “Online hate and harassment isn’t just ‘hurtful speech,’" Yael Eisenstat of the ADL's Center for Technology and Society. "It pushes people out of the conversation, impinging on their own freedom of expression, causing emotional distress, reputational and economic harm." It also inspires real-world violence, Eisenstat said. "Mass shooters are finding inspiration in the misogynist, anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic content coursing through their feeds. And social media posts on mainstream platforms that target trans people have been directly linked to bomb and death threats against hospitals that provide gender-affirming care.


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