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Gendered abuse online - Statistics and Facts

Gendered abuse online is becoming a more prominent issue as our lives become increasingly interconnected with online technology. Whilst social media and other online services still struggle with issues of free speech and regulations, the speed with which technology is advancing leaves many online users open to more varying possibilities of online abuse. The anonymity that is available to users of online platforms is a serious cause of concern for victims of such abuse.

A global issue

Online gendered abuse is a worldwide problem. As of February 2022, 19 percent of women around the world said that they had seen comments or images online which suggested that men were superior to women. A further 19 percent of women reported having been sent unrequested comments on their physical appearance. As a result of harmful online contact, almost a third of women stated they had stopped themselves from saying what they think online, and over a quarter had experienced low self-esteem. Other reactions to online abuse included lack of sleep, panic attacks, and anxiety. Whilst men and women are both exposed to the possibility of online harm, women tend to encounter more abuse and are affected more severely.

Gendered abuse on social media

Gendered abuse is most likely to occur on social media than on any other online environment. According to a survey conducted in the United States in 2020, 81 percent of women said they had been harassed on social media. Furthermore, research in the United Kingdom in 2022 monitored the Instagram accounts of selected high-profile women and it was found that 6.5 percent of content sent to them via Instagram direct messages contained violating content. This violating content was most likely to be sent in video form. In addition, another UK study found that female contestants of the reality TV show Married at First Sight UK were almost twice as likely to encounter abusive Twitter comments as their male counterparts.

Although a large amount of online harassment is encountered on social media, women are also susceptible to experience abuse whilst playing online video games. As of June, almost half of all female U.S. online gamers surveyed said they had experienced identity-based harassment whilst playing online games.

Worries about the metaverse

With the move towards the metaverse and virtual reality environments, online abuse has the potential to become even more intrusive and realistic. As of March 2022, online abuse and cyberbullying, personal safety, and sexual harassment were all major concerns of internet users in the United States surrounding the metaverse. The same survey revealed that men showed a much greater interest in using the metaverse than women, with half of all women surveyed saying they were not at all interested in using it.

Cyberstalking

As well as unwanted remarks, harassment, and gender-based discriminatory comments and images, gendered online abuse can come in the form of cyberstalking, although it is often not portrayed as being as problematic as physical stalking. In 2021, 21 percent of adult internet users said they did not care if they were being stalked online by a current or former partner if they were not being stalked in real life. Additionally, a third of respondents aged 18 to 39 years felt that online stalking of a current or ex-partner was harmless. However, as products such as AirTags, which enable the tracking of people without their knowledge, have become more accessible, a further dimension of digitally-enabled stalking has become possible.

The rise of gender-related conversations online

Though gender-based online violence is a pressing issue, gender-related conversations have continued to grow on social media platforms. From 2020 to 2021, conversations on Facebook about gender symbols rose by a massive 2,855 percent. Furthermore, conversations about gender roles increased by 113 percent. On Instagram, hashtags such as #WomenEmpowerment, #Trans, and #Nonbinary also saw year-on-year growth.

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