7 Sep 2016

Half of all NZ men experience online harassment - survey

8:22 pm on 7 September 2016

Three out of four New Zealand men under 30 and more than half of all men have been victim to online harassment, a survey has shown.

Cybersecurity company Symantec surveyed 505 men and found men have copped abuse for their physical appearance, religion, sexual orientation and mental illness.

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Photo: 123rf

The harassment came in the form of abuse, insults, threats of violence and even death threats.

A similar study detailing the experiences of women online was published earlier this year, in which 70 percent of women identified online harassment as a major problem.

Kris Fox, who has been making vlogs, beauty tutorials and comedic videos for YouTube for three years, said he had learned the hard way that harassment came along with being an online star.

That did not make the things people said hurt any less, he said.

"When you look at the survey results you do notice that a high percentage of the people who are being targeted are from the LGBT community, which is my community - I was shocked to see that it was so high."

He had received death threats and comments telling him he was a "half-breed human".

"What does that even mean? It's pointless," Mr Fox said.

He had never been harassed in person, but he estimated he received at least five negative comments every time he posted a new video.

"If they won't say it in person why would they say it online?" he said.

"Telling someone to kill themselves is a strong thing [and] I don't think people understand how serious it can be."

He blocked people and reported harassment all the time.

"Sometimes I don't report it for myself but other people who might see it," Mr Fox said.

Symantic security expert Mark Shaw said the survey results were surprising

"More men are being harassed than I thought - the nature of the abuse and harassment is so broad as well."

The most common reasons men were attacked online were over sexual orientation (23 percent of gay, bisexual and transgender men, compared with 8 percent of heterosexual men), minority religious beliefs (21 percent), and physical or intellectual disabilities (15 percent), Mr Shaw said.

There were differences in how men and women dealt with the abuse, he said.

"Men have the 'she'll be right' attitude - they play it down.

"Women report it to the police and use online tools, which more men need to be doing," Mr Shaw said.

The survey showed 60 percent of online harassment was through social media.

"Online harassment can cause suicide and depression and the statistics in New Zealand show we have high rates of suicide among young men."

Social media companies needed to take more responsibility and the government should create stricter legislation, he said.

"I don't think Instagram and Facebook are doing enough around harassment - it was only last month when Instagram brought in the option for celebrities to block and report comments."

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the results simply reflected the greater number of people going online.

Harassment and bullying affected everybody so it was not surprising that it affected men as much as women, he said.

"The main point for people to do is seek assistance from appropriate agencies and that varies on where they are being harassed online.

"It is a little bit case-by-case but in general there are industry tools and agencies there to help people."

The Harmful Digital Communications Act was being phased in and was starting to pick up abuse at the more extreme end of the scale," Mr Cocker said.

"Once more of the regulations come into force New Zealand will have better services for online abuse than anywhere else."

What to do if you are harassed online

  • Review your online presence. Check your security and privacy settings on all devices and regularly change passwords.
  • Recognise the problem if it happens and move quickly. Do not respond to the perpetrator; keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video; and if you witness online harassment, offer support to the person being targeted.
  • Report online harassment to the relevant authorities immediately. If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email requesting the content be removed or blocked. Reporting a crime can be done directly through the police or via The Orb website. If you, or someone you care for, need advice on how to deal with online harassment, please reach out to Netsafe for help on 09 362 0971.

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