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How much online abuse is there?

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Digital platforms and internet-enabled technologies have had a transformative effect on our social and political lives—how we communicate, form communities, work, shop, organise politically, travel, consume information and news, socialise and entertain ourselves. However, it is increasingly apparent that these data-intensive platforms can also threaten the integrity of democratic processes, jeopardise people’s safety and security, and work against social values such as equity, fairness and transparency.

One institution that is taking the issue extremely seriously is Alan Turing Institute and whilst a review of the available evidence by the Alan Turing Institute on the prevalence of online abuse is ongoing and far from complete. One of their key findings is that we need to build out better data and encourage more data sharing between tech companies, government and academia if we are to fully understand and tackle this issue.

So, what can we do to make this happen? Our three key recommendations are:

  1. A representative survey dedicated to understanding people in the UK’s experiences of online abuse should be administered each year, rather than as a subsection of other surveys.

  2. Government statistics on different types of illegal online abuse, including both hate speech and harassment, need to be centrally collated and published in a single bulletin. Efforts should be made to improve the coverage, comparability and quality of Government statistics – and online hate crime should be reinstated as part of the Home Office’s reporting.

  3. A publicly accessible monitoring platform should be established to provide real-time insight into the prevalence of online abuse. Whilst we recognise the limitations of computational tools, and of relying on ‘big’ rather than high quality datasets, efforts should be made to leverage recent computational advances.

On older graph dating back to 2020, but it still shows alarming statistics with regards to online bullying with children that are sadly still prevalent today.

Online abuse threatens to reinforce existing inequalities and discrimination in social and public life. It could deepen divisions within and across our communities, and even discourage a whole generation of young women from public life, as has recently been reported.

Internet-enabled technologies have had positive, transformative effects across society. But Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the world wide web, recently voiced his concern that more must be done to tackle the web’s “downward plunge to a dysfunctional future”. If we are to have a fair, open and accessible internet then hazards such as online abuse must be dealt with – without, at the same time, infringing on freedom of speech and open expression.

At Hubly we are working hard to develop and implement new technologies and policies that help prevent online abuse.


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