Skip to Content
Tech policy

This Question Helps Reveal How Slippery Online Harassment Is to Define

January 5, 2018

A new Pew Research Center study hints at why social networks rarely seem to get harassment issues right.

A sample question: Alice has a disagreement with Bob. Alice forwards it to Clare, who posts it online. Bob gets unkind and vulgar messages, and is later doxxed and threatened. Was Bob harassed?

The results: According to Pew's survery, 89 percent of people say yes. But there was little consensus in repsonses about when in the course of events the harassment actually occurred, or when may have been a suitable time to take action. When race and gender issues were included in the questions, reponses became even more varied.

Why it matters: If we're ever going to stamp out online harassment, we first need to agree on what it is, when it happens, and what to do about it. These results suggest that for the moment, that's a fairly distant hope.

Deep Dive

Tech policy

How Russia killed its tech industry

The invasion of Ukraine supercharged the decline of the country’s already struggling tech sector—and undercut its biggest success story, Yandex.

AI might not steal your job, but it could change it

AI is already being used in the legal field. Is it really ready to be a lawyer?

How to preserve your digital memories

Following recent announcements by Google and Twitter, more data deletion policies are coming.

Your digital life isn’t as permanent as you think it is

Google will delete accounts after two years of inactivity, and experts expect more data deletion policies to come

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.