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Trolls and polls - the economic costs of online harassment and cyberhate

Digital communications Cyberbullying Online harassment Online abuse Australia

The Australia Institute was commissioned by independent journalist and researcher Ginger Gorman to estimate the economic costs of online harassment and cyberhate. This report is part of a wider research by Ms Gorman on cyberhate.

In April 2018, a nationally representative sample of 1,557 Australians were surveyed about online harassment and cyberhate. The poll was conducted online. Questions and details of poll method and adjustments to data are provided later in the report.

Key findings:

  • More than one in three of all internet users have experienced some form of online harassment or abuse.
  • The most common were abusive language (27%), being sent unwanted sexual material (18%), and threats of physical violence or deaths (8%).
  • Many people have experienced even more extreme forms of harassment, including being 'doxed', that is, having personal details published to intimidate them (5%), or being impersonated online or other actions to damage their reputation or careers (both 4%).
  • Of concern is this harrassment can go well beyond one-off events. 8% of people say they have experienced 'cyberhate', 'repeated, sustained threats or attacks'. That is equivalent to 1.3 million Australians.
  • The impacts of online abuse can be substantial. Of those who said they had experienced harassment or cyberhate, one in four said they had seen a medical professional as a result, and one in four also said it had impacted their work.
  • Our research found the cost of online harassment and cyberhate to have cost Australians an estimated $3.7 billion in health costs and lost income.
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