The Trolls are Organized and Everyone’s a Target | The Effects of Online Hate and Harassment
Online hate and harassment1 have increasingly become a common part of the online experience. Public attention has usually focused on harassment of celebrities and public figures. However, our recent work has shown that a substantial swath of the American public has experienced online harassment, with 37 percent of adults having experienced severe online harassment2, defined by the Pew Research Center as including physical threats, sexual harassment, stalking and sustained harassment3. For this study, we wanted to examine the effects of online hate and harassment on private individuals—the type of people whose experiences represent the bulk of that statistic. We engaged in an extensive literature review and also conducted 15 in-depth qualitative interviews to better understand and chronicle the full experience of being a target of online harassment. We explore the personal stories of targets of online hate in an attempt to paint a more complete picture of the ways in which harassment can envelop multiple facets of a person’s life. We hope this report sheds light on the statistics.