Online Harassment and Cyberhate costs Australians $3.7b


New research from The Australia Institute estimates the cost of online harassment and cyberhate to have cost Australians an estimated total of $3.7 billion dollars in health costs and lost income.

Key findings:

  • More than one in three of all internet users have experienced some form of online harassment or abuse.
  • The most common were abusive language (27%), being sent unwanted sexual material (18%), and threats of physical violence or deaths (8%).
  • Many people have experienced even more extreme forms of harassment, including being ‘doxed’, that is, having personal details published to intimidate them (5%), or being impersonated online or other actions to damage their reputation or careers (both 4%).
  • Of concern is this harrassment can go well beyond one-off events. 8% of people say they have experienced ‘cyberhate’, ‘repeated, sustained threats or attacks’. That is equivalent to 1.3 million Australians.
  • The impacts of online abuse can be substantial. Of those who said they had experienced harassment or cyberhate, one in four said they had seen a medical professional as a result, and one in four also said it had impacted their work.
  • Our research found the cost of online harassment and cyberhate to have cost Australians an estimated $3.7 billion in health costs and lost income.

“These results will not be surprising to the many Australians who experience online abuse and predatory trolling,” said Tom Swann, researcher at The Australia Institute.

“Sadly our research shows that online harassment and abusive behaviour is widespread and has negative impacts on the wellbeing of many internet users. This will come as no surprise to the many people who have experienced it.

“While substantial numbers of both men and women experienced harassment, women were more likely to experience it, particularly sexual forms of harassment.

“Younger people were much more likely to experience online harassment. This is unsurprising, as they generally use the internet more. Yet the meaner side of internet impacts all kinds of internet users.

“Even among people who use the internet least often, one in four had experienced online harassment.

“Experience of this more extreme abuse was much higher in younger groups and among those who use the internet most often.”

The Australia Institute was commissioned by independent journalist and researcher Ginger Gorman to estimate the economic costs of online harassment and cyberhate.

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