Poll: Majority of Americans say they've experienced hate, harassment online

The majority of respondents to a new poll released Wednesday said they experienced hate and harassment online in 2018.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a nonprofit that tracks and fights anti-Semitism, found that 53 percent of respondents had experienced some sort of harassment on the internet last year. Thirty-seven percent reported severe attacks, like sexual harassment or stalking.

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“It’s deeply disturbing to see how prevalent online hate is, and how it affects so many Americans,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

“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.”

That 53 percent figure represents a significant increase from the 41 percent of Americans who claimed to have been harassed online in a 2017 Pew Research survey.

"This was significantly worse than we expected," Adam Neufeld, ADL's vice president of innovation and strategy, said.

Over 80 percent of respondents said they want the government to act by strengthening laws and improving training for police on online hate and harassment.

“More must be done in our society to lessen the prevalence of cyberhate,” 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.”

Fifty-six percent of those were said they had been harassed said at least some of it occurred on Facebook. Nineteen percent experienced harassment or hate on Twitter, 17 percent on Youtube and 16 percent on Instagram. 

ADL surveyed 1,134 people through polling service YouGov between Dec. 17 and 27. The margin of error for the sample is 3 percentage points.

ADL said they oversampled respondents who identified as Jewish, Muslim, African American, Asian American or LGBTQ to understand experiences of people who might be "especially targeted because of their group identity."