Pew finds that men and women experience different sorts of online harassment:
Jake Swearingen sees how “men, on the whole, report higher rates of less severe types of harassment (with the exception of physical threats), while women are more likely to be the focus of the two most frightening forms of it: sexual harassment and stalking.” Elise Hu connects the Pew survey to Gamergate:
The Pew research supports the notion that women are less welcome in the world of online gaming. Survey respondents, who were both men and women, were asked about a series of online platforms — social networks and online commenting forums, for example — and whether they thought those platforms were more welcoming to women, equally welcome to both sexes or more welcoming toward men. The findings show that while most online environments are viewed as equally welcoming, gaming is not. “The starkest results were for online gaming,” the researchers write, where 44 percent of respondents said the platform was more welcoming to men.
But Amanda Hess acknowledges the limits of Pew’s survey:
Pew asked respondents to elaborate on their experiences with harassment, and the resulting collection of anonymous accounts speaks to the difficulty of arriving at a shared definition of what “harassment” even is.
One respondent said that they were “told that someone should rape me which was horrific since it’s one of the things I fear most”; another “was called a racist on a blog for criticizing administration lies.” One said that a “man I went to high school with was sending me inappropriate photos and comments of a sexual nature”; another experienced “Chiding … for their likes and dislikes in things such as sports, cars, athletes, colleges football teams, things of that nature.” One was “told that if I stopped communicating with this man he would find me and rape me”; another reported that “any feminist who doesn’t already know me has been quick to characterize me as a privileged, misogynistic rape apologist.”
Is being called a rape apologist the same as being threated with rape? No, but it’s all harassment here. Whatever it is, it affects women and men differently; the study found that 38 percent of harassed women said their most recent experience with harassment was “extremely or very upsetting,” compared with 17 percent of harassed men. …
This is not to say that we know that women have it worse on the Internet. It’s to say that, so far, we just don’t know. What the Pew study does show is that the Internet is producing a lot of garbage, and men and women are served different flavors. Understanding exactly how that works will require better definitions and more dedicated study.
Timothy B. Lee recently interviewed legal scholar Danielle Citron, who suggests that things have gotten better:
TBL: You’ve been writing about this issue [of online harassment] since 2009. How do you see public attitudes shifting on this issue since you started?
DC: It’s been amazing, I have to say. I’m still not totally sold on the idea that we all agree this stuff is bad. But social attitudes have really shifted in the last two years. I gave a presentation at Yale in early 2008 about the problem of cybermobs and online harassment, and at the time the pushback to do anything about this was so profound. It was like “look, don’t touch the internet, you’re going to break it. Regulating it is going to cause more problems than good.” In the last couple of years, this phenomenon of revenge porn has brought alive the harm — maybe just because people can envision people they care about experiencing it.