Roughly one-third of offenders who committed online harassment were unknown to their victims, shows recent LIRNEAsia report
Good news about digital inclusion often leaves little room for reporting on bad experiences, which netizens encounter in the digital world. A recent report by LIRNEAsia – an ICT [information and communication technology] policy and regulation think tank working in the Asia-Pacific – says that almost one among five Indian netizens in the age-group 15-65 years had faced online harassment in 2017. In contrast, roughly twelve out of hundred internet users had witnessed online harassment in Pakistan and Bangladesh each.
Entitled AfterAccess: ICT Access and Use in India and the Global South, the study reveals that 28 percent of Indian netizens (sample size: 919) who experienced online harassment (178 out of 919) had reduced their use of the particular website. However, 48 percent of the netizens who faced online harassment said that it had no effect. Out of those who faced online harassment, roughly 15 percent had deleted the app or their profile; 5 percent had unfriended/ blocked contacts or left that group/ forum; and 4 percent had limited the use of internet as a whole.
Mostly online harassment was experienced on social media – a prominent attribute of Indian social media that was pointed out earlier by the 2018 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters without Border.
Out of those who faced online harassment, 39 percent experienced it on social media like Facebook; 29 percent on chat applications like WhatsApp; 16 percent on comments section of a website; 7 percent during online gaming; and 3 percent by emails.
As compared to urban internet users (17 percent), a higher proportion of rural netizens (20 percent) had faced online harassment. A higher proportion of male internet users (20 percent) in comparison to female netizens (17 percent) had witnessed online harassment.
Out of those who faced online harassment, nearly half were called offensive names; roughly one-fifth were purposefully embarrassed or criticized in another way (apart from being called offensive names); 13 percent were physically threatened; 3 percent were sexually harassed; and 16 percent were approached repeatedly by unwanted contacts (cyber-stalked).
According to the surveyed Indian netizens who faced online harassment, the motivations for harassment were gender (21 percent), religion or race (21 percent) and politics (20 percent).
Out of those who encountered online harassment, one-third said that the offender was someone whom s/he met before offline; one-third said the offender was an online contact/ friend whom s/he had never met before offline; and 33 percent said that the offender was someone whom s/he don't know at all (online or offline).
Use of Social Media
The LIRNEAsia report throws light on the use of social media in the country. It indicates that a higher proportion of males (22 percent) used the social media as compared to females (9 percent) in the age-group 15-65 years. Among sixteen countries, the gender gap in social media usage is the highest in Bangladesh, followed by India, according to the report.
A higher proportion of urban Indians (24 percent) used the social media in comparison to their rural counterpart (11 percent).
In India, 3 percent accessed social media through basic phones, 6 percent through feature phones and 72 percent through smartphones.
Social media was accessed by users (sample size: 754) for various purposes in the country, which is as follows:
• Chatting (text): 86 percent
• To stay in contact with friends and family: 91 percent
• Making calls: 83 percent
• To share videos/ pictures/ music: 74 percent
• To make new friends: 68 percent
• Reading news: 77 percent
• To play games: 66 percent
• To look for educational content: 71 percent
• To get opinions/ share your experience: 63 percent
• To make professional and business contacts: 57 percent
• To follow government social media pages (look for jobs or updates on policies): 58 percent
• To follow local politicians: 47 percent
• To share my produced content: 55 percent
• To market your products/ services: 45 percent
Fifty-eight percent of Indian social media users do not trust the news that they read on social media, brings out the LIRNEAsia report. Out of those who use social media in the country, 4 percent 'strongly' trusts news read on social media and 25 percent trusts news read on social media.
For the AfterAccess report, 5,069 households and individuals were surveyed from 250 wards and villages in 19 states and 108 districts (all randomly selected) of the country. Face-to-face household and individual interviews lasting 90-minutes were undertaken by LIRNEAsia. The fieldwork was conducted in October-November 2017.
The sampling methodology was designed to ensure representation of the target group (population aged 15-65 years) at the national level with 95 percent confidence interval and a +/- 3.5 percent margin of error. The sample size allows for disaggregation of data by urban-rural, gender and socio-economic classification at the national level, says the report.
AfterAccess India Report, 7 August, 2018, please click here to access
Indians online: One in five harassed, here is how, why -Karishma Mehrotra, The Indian Express, 9 August, 2018, please click here to access
Online Trolling Takes Its Toll On The Country's Press Freedom Ranking, News alert by Inclusive Media for Change, 27 April, 2018, please click here to read more
Image Courtesy: Inclusive Media for Change/ Shambhu Ghatak