Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Online harassment has reached alarming levels, so what can you do?

We all go online, be it for work, play, personal bits, or something else, but new research suggests many of us are being trolled and harassed online, and the numbers are alarming.

We like to think that most people use the internet for the purposes of good not evil, but like many things, there are a few bad eggs ruining the experience for everyone. Online attacks, slurs, harassment, and abuse seems to be on the increase, with the latest numbers from Symantec suggesting that these digital attacks are on the increase.

In fact, recent research from the security company responsible for the Norton range of products is quite alarming, with 70 percent of those surveyed saying they’ve experienced online attacks and bullying, and that younger Australians and those identifying as LGBTIQA were most affected, as well as those with mental health issues.

This is quite a jump from last year, with Symantec’s researching moving from 50 percent of people in 2016 up 20 percent this year, suggesting online bullying and harassment isn’t getting better, but far worse.

“Online or cyber harassment continues to be a real threat for both young and old,” said Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director for Symantec’s Norton in Asia Pacific and Japan.

“While the increased number of incidents could be due to people now feeling more confident to speak up, the fact that reports of online bullying and abusive behaviour is on the rise requires immediate action in terms of online users’ security and privacy,” she said.

Across the board, it seems no one is spared, with both men and women bullied by people known and unknown, and those under 30 the most targeted group, attacking online victims through the web by way of cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and sexual harassment.

These attacks have real impacts, too, with victims commonly expressing anger, rage, or suffering from depression.

While online bullying is hard to address and can’t easily be stopped by an application, Symantec does make some suggestions to help remove the aggressor from your life, including the storage of all attempts by the attacker to harass, bully, and abuse, and reporting this to the authorities.

Online abuse and harassment can be reported as a crime, though is different in each state, with the maximum penalty three years imprisonment depending on the offence, while stalking can lead to more severe penalties.

Symantec advises victims of online abuse not to respond to the perpetrator, and to contact the operators of a website or social network to warn them of what the potential bully is going. If you’re being harassed on social media, that may mean contacting Facebook or Twitter and asking their team to investigate the situation.

Meanwhile, if you’re at all concerned that your account may attempt to be tampered with, consider changing your password, and reviewing security and privacy settings, moving to an account that only allows approved friends to see what you’re doing.

“At Norton, our mission is to help protect consumers’ digital safety and help people feel inspired to be confident online users, secure in the knowledge that they are safe from harm,” said Dempsey.

“We want to do our part to prevent abuse and harassment by calling on online service providers to be ethical corporate citizens by setting clear community conduct and service standards, and being prepared to enforce them against those whose behavior violates these standards,” she said.

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