The Rise of Online Harassment

There have always been people with a predisposition to preying on others. The schoolyard bully, the jealous friend or ex, the boss hiding feelings of inferiority by putting down his employees, or the numerous cases throughout history of people persecuting, assaulting and harassing those who live outside the status quo.

In the past this abuse has largely occurred physically, with extreme cases of harassment leading to torture and murder. However this physicality has also been a limiting factor for those with a pathological desire to express hatred or violence but may not for fear of face-to-face confrontation or the possibility of physical repercussions. With the advent of the internet however this barrier has largely been removed due to the effects of online anonymity. Perverse individuals seeking revenge or who enjoy inflicting pain on others are given a virtual outlet through which they can express their hatred virtually free of consequence.

This has significant consequences for targeted individuals and groups. Expressions of online rage and hatred can have massive repercussions both psychologically and physically. Individuals have been continuously defamed and their reputations illegitimately ruined, online harassment can lead to intense physical and psychological distress, and human rights are affected as targeted groups such as those based on race, gender or belief are marginalized and driven from society.

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About David Arkyn

David has a deep interest in spiritual development, but has discovered there are many forces in the world working to keep people asleep. His recent interest has been researching the psychological tactics and techniques used to limit people's spiritual potential, writing about his discoveries here at The Conscious Reporter.



  2. Very good article. It’s good to see this for what it is, to put a name on the phenomenon so to speak.

    Those definitions from wikipedia near the start are pretty good actually, and I think it’s good for people to recognize harassment on the online stage for what it is so as to best deal with. If someone is lying about you or verbally abusing and threatening you in real life, you might argue and debate for a while but if the person can’t be reasoned with (as they’re actually acting on another motive) then you would call the police or some sort of arbitrary party. Yet online it’s not so well know what to do and often more difficult, so perhaps people are just saddled with it?

    That quote by Prof. Danielle Keats Citron is really spot on. Glad there are such sensible people out there!

    ‘The Nasty Effect’ is definitely a good way to describe that phenomenon where someone’s view of content is distorted by someone else setting a nasty tone. Something you often see on youtube videos’ comments.

    Once again, this is an incredibly good article, hitting the nails of this issue right on the head.

    That 80% of Halloween folk taking money is pretty high btw 😛

  3. Very well done and informative article! I recently took training in online content moderation and we touched on this, among other things. I will add this to my bookmarks of moderation resources. It can only help once I find work in this field. Thank you.

  4. Thanks David for a well researched article. I wish there was a solution and we could remove the internet/phones from our lives.

    • Thanks John. I think the internet is a good thing, it has opened up opportunities for a lot of people to do and learn about a lot of things they never would have had the chance to previously, but I think it’s the way some people use it that’s a problem.

  5. Thanks for highlighting this important issue David.
    The internet has been great in many ways but this online harrasment would have to be a major downside, although it’s not the internet itself which creates this unfortunate situation but rather peoples psychology. I have seen examples of the cyber bulling and trolling you are talking about and someone has to have a lot of understanding and endurance to withstand it. People speaking out against the bullying is certainly needed too so I am glad to see this article. Just simply putting the truth can go a long way to undoing all the harm caused.

  6. I also am glad That I didnt grow up with the internet the pressure on the kids now days must be immense as if they do something wrong,or even if they dont, if can be spread over the web for thousands to see. One other point is when bullying happened before the internet it use to just happen through the day, all though still very painful, but now days the bullying can happen 24/7 over the web

    A very sad situation

    • Interesting to reflect on life “before the internet” and now life with it, it seems in many ways it is simply a new avenue for the expression of what we have within. But if you go a bit further and look into dreams it gets really wild!

      • I like how you connected the two Jon – our acting in virtual world, and our inner world, that expresses itself through our dreams… I also find the two very related, as with the physical barriers broken, our “spirit” can fly high and low in the virtual realm, just like in dreams. Thats why I guess people get more courageous doing and expressing things online than do offline, which can go both positive and negative directions (positive ones being for example the ability to share spiritual views, feelings or experiences that are not normally a topic for discussion in the society). Unfortunately, due to the stae of humanity as it is today, we find more and more of these bullies, trolls, etc, which really remind me of the egos running wild in dreams or nightmares.

        Thank you David for bringing this to the light and unveiling its hidden mechanisms, especially in regards to spirituality!

  7. I’m really glad I grew up without the Internet – must be the last generation to do so. I can imagine the additional pressure it brings to the usual school-yard taunting is massively intensified. It reflects so badly on our society that adults use the internet to bully others. That said, I can understand the points brought up about the anonymity fueling bad behaviour – I have been in online debates where I am far more bold with my opinions that I often am in person. Goes to show most of us have the potential in us to be bolstered by a perceived lack of consequence – that study with the kids at Halloween really highlighted how easily circumstances can change how we behave.

  8. In addition to all the research David has done here, people might be interested in listening to this Ted Radio Hour ‘Screen Time II’ which outlines how some people have been so badly defamed and socially isolated through cyber bullying that they’ve had to be put into witness protection plans, and relocated with new names & jobs, just because of the impacts of social media –

    It clearly shows how things get waaay out of hand when people feel the anonymity of the web allows them to act without recourse.

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