More than half of Americans have experienced online hate and harassment, report finds

More than half of all Americans have experienced online hate or harassment within their lifetimes, while reports of online abuse among teenagers and LGBT+ people have surged within the last year, according to an annual survey from a leading civil rights group.

The Anti-Defamation League’s fifth annual survey charts a dramatic increase in reports of online hate and harassment among several groups over the last year, including 51 per cent of teenagers between ages 13 and 17 – an increase of 15 per cent from the same point last year.

Forty-seven per cent of LGBT+ people, 38 per cent of Black people, and 38 per cent of Muslims have reported online hate and harassment over the last 12 months, according to the report, which calls on Congress, the White House and social media companies to implement stronger protections against online abuse.

“We’re confronted with record levels of hate across the internet, hate that too often turns into real violence and danger in our communities,” according to a statement from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “The time for talking, and for planning, is long over. It’s time to execute on the priorities set out by the White House and other policymakers, and it’s time for big tech companies to deliver on their promises to reduce hate online.”

Reports of online abuse are particularly acute among transgender people; 76 per cent of trans respondents said they have been harassed online within their lifetimes, and more than half experienced such abuse within the previous 12 months – the most among any demographic included in the survey.

“Due to the recent proliferation of extreme anti-transgender legislation and rhetoric, ADL sampled transgender individuals separately this year,” according to the report.

By the end of May, state lawmakers had introduced more than 500 bills impacting LGBT+ people in 2023, including 220 bills specifically targeting trans and nonbinary Americans, according to an analysis from the Human Rights Campaign.

In remarks at the White House earlier this month, President Joe Biden condemned the “totally, thoroughly unjustified and ugly” wave of legislation impacting LGBT+ Americans.

A separate report from the ADL and GLAAD discovered more than 350 targeted threats against LGBT+ people within the last year, including online harassment as well as armed protests at drag performances, bomb scares against hospitals that provide gender-affirming healthcare, and other acts of violence, including a mass shooting inside a Colorado Springs LGBT+ nightclub.

Incidents targeting drag performers and the people and venues that host them have accelerated across the US, with similar threats surfacing in the UK, according to a separate recent report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The group collected 203 on- and offline threatening incidents within the last year.

The ADL’s latest survey of 2,139 people was performed online with the ADL and YouGov from 7 March through 24 March.

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