Almost Half Of British Internet Users Suffer ‘Online Harm’

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Online health check. Eight in ten adults concerned when going online, as majority fret over online content

The online world can be an important part of people’s lives, but a new survey from Ofcom has revealed the less than savoury side of the Internet.

The survey from the British communications regulator and the Information Commissioner’s Office sought the opinions of 1,686 internet users over the ages of 16 about their attitudes to, and experiences of, online harm across a range of categories.

Unfortunately, it seems that for some people, the online world can be a truly negative place, with many reporting issues when surfing the web.

Troll © Clara, Shutterstock 2012

Online harm

The headline stats from the survey show that eight in ten adult internet users (79 percent) have concerns about issues (such as hacking and security) associated with going online.

But perhaps more worryingly, almost half (45 percent) of respondents said they had experienced some form of online harm.

These included, some 20 percent who said they had received spam emails or communications; 14 percent had experience of viruses or malicious software; 13 percent had experienced scams, fraud or identity theft; and 10 percent had seen fake news or disinformation online.

The survey found that 58 percent of people are concerned about data or privacy; 55 percent are concerned about interactions with other users; and 54 percent are concerned about hacking or security.

Whilst security and hacking are some of the biggest concerns, the research also found that protection of children to be a leading area of concern. Parents and carers are most concerned about issues such as exploitation, inappropriate content, and bullying, harassment or trolling etc.

But people are beginning to fight back with one in five respondents saying they had reported harmful content encountered online, with younger adults more likely to do this.

The most commonly type of content that is being reported is illegal sexual content, followed by content that promotes terrorism and racism.

Ongoing debate

The research will add fuel to the debate surrounding the tech industry, and whether big name tech firms are doing enough to tackle the negatives aspects of being online.

Earlier this year the European Commission said it would publish draft regulations that would target “harmful” business practices employed by companies.

Last year Facebook said it was utilising artificial intelligence (AI) in order to keep terrorist content off the social network.

And the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced in April this year £9m in funding to crackdown on criminals exploiting the dark web.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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