Vancouver (Angus Reid) – It’s not something most people would feel comfortable seeing while walking down the street: One out of every four people being subjected to unwelcome comments, vicious insults, threats of violence, or worse. On Facebook or Twitter, however, this is exactly the environment that develops below even the most run-of-the-mill political stories.
The growth of social media over the last decade or so has revolutionized the way people build relationships, but it has also revolutionized the way they tear each other down.
A comprehensive new public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds one-quarter of all Canadians have experienced some type of harassment or abuse while using social media, and that total rises among younger people and frequent users of such sites.
The survey finds that the effects of uncivil social media discourse extend well beyond hurt feelings and online embarrassment. One-in-four who have been harassed on social media say their experiences have had real-world consequences, and more than six-in-ten Canadians say they have self-censored online in hopes of avoiding such abuse.
Given these wide-ranging effects, it’s perhaps little wonder that most Canadians who have been following this issue are less than satisfied with the way social media companies have been handling offensive content on their platforms.
- More than half of Canadians familiar with the issue (53%) say social media companies are “not doing enough” to address harassment on their platforms. Just 19 per cent say they’re “responding appropriately”
- Most would like to see social media companies take an active approach to harassment, either responding to complaints (42%) or proactively finding and removing offensive content (49%)ed
- Canadians find five specific examples of social media abuse presented in this survey to be unacceptable, but there are significant age and gender gaps in their responses.