A new study confirms what many internet users know all too well: harassment is a common part of online life.
The first-of-its-kind report by the Pew Research Centre found that nearly three-quarters of American adult internet users have witnessed online harassment. Forty per cent have experienced it themselves.
The types of harassment Pew asked about range from name-calling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. Half of those harassed say they didn't know the person who had most recently attacked them.
Young adults - people 18 to 29 - were the most likely age group to see and undergo online harassment. Women aged 18 to 24 were disproportionately the victims of stalking and sexual harassment, according to the survey. And people who have more information available about themselves online, work in the tech industry or promote themselves on the internet, were also more likely to be harassed.
Starting mid-year, people involved in an online campaign termed "Gamergate" have been harassing several prominent women in the video game industry and their supporters for criticising the lack of diversity in games and how women are portrayed. One of the targets, Brianna Wu, a software engineer and founder of game developer Giant Spacekat, says she has frequently been harassed online, but it's worse this year.
Earlier this month on Twitter, people threatened her and her husband with rape, death and castration and posted her address online, she says, and they have been trying to impersonate her on the internet to smear her reputation. She got so frightened that she left her home in Boston.
Wu went to the police, but most people harassed online don't. Says Pew, just 5 per cent of those harassed reported the incident to police, while nearly half confronted the person online.
Victims of harassment often don't know where it's coming from. Thirty-eight per cent of victims say a stranger was behind the threats, and another 26 per cent don't know who the person was.
Among other key findings from Pew:
Two-thirds of those harassed say the most recent incident took place on a social networking site or app, while 22 per cent saw it happen in the comments section of a website. Sixteen per cent say it happened in online gaming.
Men were more likely to be called offensive names than women. Men were also more likely to be physically threatened.
Not everyone says they were hurt by online harassment. While 14 per cent of people found their most recent incident "extremely upsetting", 22 per cent say it was "not at all upsetting".
The telephone and online survey was conducted from May 30 to June 30 among 3217 respondents. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 per cent.