Fact sheet

Factsheet: who is sending and sharing potentially harmful digital communications?

Internet access Online abuse Digital communications New Zealand

This factsheet presents findings from a quantitative study looking at adults’ experiences of sending and sharing potentially harmful digital communications in New Zealand.

Typically research into harmful digital communications focuses on the experiences of those on the receiving end – the victims. However, to better address the distress and harm caused, information is needed about the people sending and sharing potentially harmful messages and posts. In this study, adult New Zealanders were asked whether they had sent potentially harmful digital communications in the previous year and if so, how often they had done this, who they were sent to, the channel(s) they used, and the reason for doing this.

Key findings:

  1. Around 1 in 10 adult New Zealanders had sent or shared at least one potentially harmful digital communication in the previous 12 months.
  2. It was most common for people to say offensive things about someone, but they also engaged in a range of behaviours such as sharing someone’s intimate images without their permission or encouraging other people to send hurtful messages to someone.
  3. Over a quarter of senders said they did this for a joke, while around 1 in 10 wanted to influence someone’s behaviour or thoughts, scare or embarrass them, and 1 in 20 were motivated by reasons such as revenge, money and sexual pleasure.
  4. Nearly half of the people sent these communications were family or friends, while about 1 in 10 people were strangers.
  5. Around 8 in 10 of people sending potentially harmful digital communications had also received them. In contrast, only 1 in 4 of receivers said they also sent such material to others.
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