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Cyberbullying under the spotlight

New report looks at when people are most likely to experience cyberbullying and hate speech online

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | November 15, 2016 | School life

International anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label has published findings of a major study of cyberbullying and hate speech online to coincide with anti-bullying week.

Ditch the Label has partnered with leading social intelligence company Brandwatch, evaluating 19 million tweets from the US and the UK over the span of four years in order to better understand the current climate of cyberbullying and hate speech online. 

The report looks at who is most likely to send abuse, who is most likely to receive it, when people are most likely to experience cyberbullying, topics most likely to precede it and how best to respond to it.

The research into cyberbullying and hate speech online is a response to key findings from Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey 2016, the first major study to look at why young people bully others. The research, conducted in partnership with schools and colleges over the UK, found that 1.5 million young people (50%) have been bullied within the past year and two out of 10 were bullied every day. 

People who have been bullied are almost twice as likely to bully others and six out of 10 young people have experienced cyberbullying. Of those, half never tell anyone through fear or embarrassment.

Politics is the topic most likely to receive bullying remarks, followed by topics relating to sport and food. You are most likely to experience cyberbullying on Twitter between 5pm-8pm on a Sunday.

Racist language was the most common form of hate speech on Twitter. Of the 19 million tweets analysed according to specific search terms, over 7.7m tweets featured racially insensitive language. Men sent 59% of these.

Misogynist tweets were the second most common form of hate speech with 3m of analysed tweets featuring misogynistic comments – 52% of these were sent by women.  Tweets about what it means to be a man, homophobia and transphobia also featured largely.

It’s important not to villainise those who use the Internet to send abuse, rather we should be trying to understand the root issues

Sports fans are over-represented in bullying tweets, as are executives. By contrast, teachers and scientists, as well as those interested in politics and environmental issues, are less likely to participate in online hate speech. 

The majority of insults on Twitter related to intelligence (33%) and appearance (20%) with sexual orientation, religion and gender also used as hate speech. Female trolls tended to use insults relating to intelligence (dumb, stupid), appearance (fat, ugly), and derogatory animal terms (bitch, chicken), while males were more likely to use homophobic insults. 

Responding to people who troll escalates the conflict. Research found that responding to bullying tweets escalated the conflict in 44% of cases, compared with only 3% of positive outcomes. Liam Hackett, Founder and CEO of Ditch the Label said: "The Internet is a powerful tool for connecting people, however it now means that it is possible to experience abuse from somebody anonymous or who you have never even met.

“The data provides a uniquely observational view on the issue of cyberbullying and hate speech and we will now be using these insights to further develop our support programs and campaigns. It’s important not to villainise those who use the Internet to send abuse, rather we should be trying to understand the root issues.”

Ditch the Label is one of the UK’s leading anti-bullying charities and the only charity to offer online bullying support. The charity has recently launched a digital support platform that provides instant advice and support for young people who are experiencing bullying or associated problems.

W: www.DitchtheLabel.org

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