Is the Internet unsafe for women? | FACTUAL FEMINIST

Is there an epidemic of online harassment of women? Recent articles in major publications have gone as far as calling online harassment targeting women, “the civil rights issue of our time.” Caroline Kitchens takes a closer look at the evidence behind the alarming assertions, and her findings might surprise you.

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Partial transcript:
Hi, I’m Caroline Kitchens, filling in for Christina Hoff Sommers. Christina will return for next week’s episode. Anyone who’s spent time on the internet can tell you it’s often not the best place for intelligent debate. There are a lot of trolls, and they seem to target –well, just about everyone. But recently, feminists and journalists have seized on some disturbing incidents and factoids to claim that there is a larger, patriarchal effort to silence women online. Amanda Hess says that the cyber harassment of women is the civil rights issue of our time. The conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat called Hess’ story, “a candidate for the most troubling magazine essay of 2014.” With the exception of a few skeptics, no one has checked the facts. There’s no question that women sometimes suffer severe harassment and abuse online. But when you look at the evidence, there is no indication that online harassment is either a) systematic or b) limited to women. Amanda Hess and other activist bloggers cite data from an anti-abuse advocacy group claiming that 72.5% of people who reported online harassment incidents were women. But, as libertarian writer/feminist Cathy Young showed in Reason magazine, that data was rigged from the start. First: it looked at REPORTED cases of harassment. But what if women are simply more likely to classify an incident as harassment and to report it than men might be? Second, and more importantly: there were only an average of 288 victims identified per year. That’s too many, but when you consider the hundreds of millions of women who use the internet, it hardly amounts to an “epidemic.” So let's look at a more serious study.  According to a Pew survey, 13% of women said they had been stalked or harassed online, but so did 11% of men. In the same study, 5% of women said something happened online that led them into physical danger, and so did 3% of men. These gaps are small and within the poll’s margin of error.

Are women being silenced online?

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