India leads the world in online harassment

Eight out of 10 people in India have experienced some form of online harassment, with 41% of women having faced sexual harassment on the web, according to a new survey commissioned by cybersecurity solutions firm, Norton by Symantec.

The online survey was conducted in the summer of 2017 with a sample size of 1,035 respondents drawn mainly from Tier 1 cities, with the objective of understanding Indian exposure to online harassment.

The most common forms of online harassment were found to be abuse and insults, which was reported by 63% of respondents. This was followed by malicious gossip and rumours (59%), malicious comments/threats on a social media site (54%), trolling (50%), and attacks/abuse from a coordinated group (49%).

“Our research shows that the occurrence of more serious forms of online harassment were quite high, with 45% having experienced threats of physical violence, and 44% at the receiving end of cyberbullying,” said Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager, Norton by Symantec.

The study also found that of the four countries from the Asia-Pacific region which were surveyed (India, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan), India recorded the highest level of online harassment, with 45% of the respondents having experienced cyberstalking.

“With Indians spending more time on social media platforms and mobile applications, it is important that online users take basic precautions to protect their safety and security to avoid unwanted contact,” Chopra said.

As per the study, in 42% of the cyberbullying cases and in nearly half of all instances of cyberstalking where the victim was a woman, the perpetrator was a stranger.

While the survey revealed that men and women reported similar experiences of online harrassment, people with disabilities and poor mental health were more susceptible to some of the more serious threats.

Seventy-one per cent of people with disabilities or poor mental health reported receiving threats of physical violence, while 67% people were cyberbullied.

Threats of physical violence experienced by the respondents was highest in Mumbai (51%), followed by Delhi (47%), and Hyderabad (46%).

Similarly, online sexual harrassment was reported to be highest in Delhi and Mumbai (43%), followed by Kolkata (37%) and Bengaluru (36%).

Instances of online harassment left the victims feeling angry, irritated or frustrated. “Worryingly, a significant proportion reported depression and 1 in 4 women found the experience frightening,” the report said.

“People should check their security and privacy settings on social media platforms and regularly change passwords,” Chopra said. “They should not respond to the perpetrator and keep all records and evidence of the harassment. They also need to report such behavior to relevant authorities immediately.”

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