Online Aggression Related to Four Factors, Researchers Find

online aggression

A report out today by the University of Buckingham and the Sir John Cass Foundation explores themes surrounding the comparatively intense ferocity of online aggression.

The study examined cyber aggression and cyberbullying among teens between the ages of 12-17 to help develop evidence-based prevention and intervention recommendations.

According to the report, online bullying can be more severe and vicious precisely because perpetrators are a step removed from their victims.  Researchers opine that the comparatively greater severity of aggressive behavior online may be connected to four primary factors: Anonymity, avoidance, audience, and access.


The study notes that perpetrators may anonymously engage in online interactions, and behave more aggressively because of a reduced fear of consequences.


As noted in the report, online perpetrators avoid actually confronting and facing a victim’s reaction; as a result, they may effectively be insulated from the harm they caused.


The study notes that greater harm can be inflicted online because photos or comments can reach a much larger audience.


Finally, the study notes that victims face comparatively greater harm in online bullying because the behavior can be relentless, occurring all-hours of the day or night.  Researchers, such as Dr. Popovac, a full-time lecturer at the University of Buckingham and a lead researcher on the issue of cyberbullying, note that continuous accessibility makes it “difficult for victims to escape.”

Underscoring the harm to victims and the attendant urgency of the need for intervention, Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, emphasized the greater severity of online aggression, stating:

It is the very remoteness of cyber-space that can bring out the very worst in human nature.


More takeaways from the University of Buckingham study:

What do teens experience?

  • being called names (70%)
  • embarrassing pictures published (54%)
  • rumors/gossip spread about them (48%)
  • being tricked through impersonation (44%)
  • being threatened (35%)
  • hurtful/embarrassing comments/questions (34%)
  • private communications revealed (32%)
  • being impersonated/hacked (18%)

Types of Cyberaggression

What does the online aggression relate to?

  • their appearance
  • the way they express themselves online
  • their sexuality or sexual orientation
  • other aspects of their identity (e.g., race/ethnicity/religion)

Who do teen victims tell?

  • a friend (49%)
  • a parent (22%)
  • nobody (15%)

The study also highlights a notable disparity between teens’ experiences with cyberbullying — and what parents think.

For instance, 53% of teenagers reported being the subject of images posted online to embarrass them.  Yet only 22% of parents believed their child had experienced this.

Another example: 20% reported having previously been threatened online – but only 7.2 % of parents thought their children had.

Victims may perpetuate the cycle.

Finally, it is worth noting that the study found  a strong connection between victimization and perpetration:

44% of victims also admitting to being perpetrators in a different context.

Facebook to Fund Digital Safety Ambassadors

digital safety

Facebook announced Monday it plans to invest over $1.3 million to help train youth to serve as digital safety ambassadors in British secondary schools.

The social media giant’s announcement comes on the heels of the British government’s unrolling of its Internet Safety Strategy; which includes possible levies on social media platforms.

According to Facebook—which reached over two billion active monthly users in 2017—the company has partnered with charitable organizations to provide online and classroom training to assist teenagers in addressing cyberbullying.

Recent research shows many young cyberbullying victims are reluctant to disclose to an adult what is happening.

Facebook’s funding would help train mentors in 4,500 British schools over the next 2 years.

In response to the announcement, a spokesperson for NSPCC, a UK charity fighting child abuse, stated:

It is absolutely vital that Facebook and the internet industry work to ensure that their platforms are safe environments for young people to use.

We want to see a strong set of minimum standards that all social media companies must follow including grooming and bullying alerts, an army of child safety moderators, clear community guidelines and greater transparency about how and what they are doing to keep children safe online.

Australia Launches Portal to Combat Revenge Porn

revenge porn

Australia Takes Steps to Combat Revenge Porn

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has introduced a portal to help that nation’s victims of revenge porn.

Nonconsensual image sharing, commonly referred to as revenge porn, is a form of online abuse in which perpetrators show, send, or publish nude or sexually-compromising photos or videos of a person without the subject’s consent.

Australia’s portal—reportedly now in its pilot phase—is attempting to gauge “the volume and complexity” of the problem.

The portal provides guidance on how victims can take action—it offers guidance on having images removed if they have been published online, getting the police involved, and managing abusive communications that are being sent directly to the victim.

Victims of revenge porn also share their stories.

The Problem in the U.S.

A December 2016 report by the Data & Society research institute found that 1 in 25 online Americans have either had sensitive images posted without their permission or been threatened with nonsensual image sharing.

As with other forms of cyber abuse, the problem is believed disproportionately to affect females and LGBTQ.

More than 30 states have passed laws making nonconsensual image-sharing and other types of cyber abuse a crime.

Social Media Complaints Data to be Public in Britain

social media complaints

Data on social media complaints may soon be set to be ‘public’ in Britain.

In an aim to ensure social media provide a clear picture of “true scale of risks and harms that users encounter on their platforms,” Britain is unrolling a comprehensive “internet safety strategy.”

The policy aims to encourage social media platforms to publish data on the complaints received and on how often the platforms actually remove abusive messages in response.

Britain’s Culture Secretary Karen Bradley social media giants like Facebook and Twitter will not await a mandate; asking that  giants elect voluntarily to publish the requested information on social media complaints and handling.

Announcing the strategy, Ms. Bradley stated:

I believe Britain should be the safest place in the world to go online and this government is determined to make that a reality.

Put simply, behaviour that is unacceptable in normal life should be unacceptable on a computer screen.


As part of this strategy, we will work with key players to introduce a comprehensive response to the problem, including an online code of practice that I want to see every social media company sign up to.

A call for companies to think about safety during the design of their products, to ensure that basic safety features are included from the outset; and a plan to ensure that every child is taught the skills they need to be safe online.

The strategy comes following reports that websites and apps were not doing enough to remove abusive messages.

In reporting the announcement, UK’s The Daily Mail notes that cyberbullying is a problem affecting both children and adults:

Teachers say cyberbullying is a growing problem. While children used to be able to escape playground abuse by going home, now it follows them home via social media.

Even when children complain to web firms about bullying messages, nothing is done to punish the perpetrator.

MPs – particularly female MPs – have also complained of the rising tide of online abuse.

Thousands of abusive tweets were sent to shadow home secretary Diane Abbott alone during the election campaign.

New Apps Breed Teen Cyberbullying

cyberbullying among teens

Cyberbullying Among Teens

New apps are providing fertile ground for cyberbullying among teens.

Following the success of platforms like, Curious Cat, Yik Yak, Whisper and Secret, 2 new so-called “honesty apps” Sarahah & TBH (shorthand for “to be honest”) enable users to provide anonymous feedback about individuals. The apps provide a ready platform for cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is an increasingly significant public health problem that is especially pronounced in girls and LGBTQ youth. Cyberbullying can lead to serious negative social, mental, and physical effects.

The potential for abuse by youth and teens of so-called “honesty apps” is clear.


While TBH is reportedly heavily-moderated, critics fear that its requirement that the app be permitted to access users’ location and contacts makes the app unsafe for young users.


Sarahah is reported to be breeding harassment.

One user review commented “My friend who is suicidal is getting messages like why are u still alive kill urself already.

Sarahah was one of the most downloaded iPhone apps in the U.S. in August.

Can People Cyberbully Themselves? Understanding Digital Self Harm

digital self harm

Understanding Digital Self-Harm

Digital self harm must always be ruled out as a possibility when investigating anonymous cyberbullying.

By now, the behavior of self-harm is well-known.  Self-harm or self-injury occurs when a person purposely harms himself.  But there is also another form of self-harming behavior in which a person might engage: Digital self-harm.

Digital self-harm is behavior in which a person anonymously sends himself/herself instructions to self-harm – through online postings or messages.

What are the reasons a person might threaten or harass himself/herself?

The reasons why a person might send himself/herself harassing or threatening digital messages vary.  But a person might engage in digital self-harm for the following reasons:

  • to be funny/get attention
  • to test their friends, or
  • out of self-hate or low self-esteem

Risk Factors for Digital Self Harm

Certain risk factors are associated with digital self-harm.  For instance, LGBTQ, victims of bullying, drug use, or physical self-harming behavior.  All of these make it more likely a person might engage in digital self-harming.

Given the severe negative effects of cyberbullying investigators must be careful to carefully avoid victim-blaming.  In early stages, however, they should remain open to the possibility that one person may be both – the victim and the cyberbully.

An experienced cyberbullying lawyer can help you look into reports of cyberbullying and help you explore legal options.

Instagram Aims to Combat Cyberbullying on its App

Instagram cyberbullying

Instagram unrolled new tools aimed at combatting cyberbullying on the heels of recent reports finding it to be the worst online platform for cyberbullying.

The changes to the social media platform include filtering out comments containing abusive keywords and the ability to block out entire groups.

The problem of cyberbullying warrants serious attention—particularly given studies estimating that in the U.S. up to 34% of students between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced cyberbullying, defined as:

Having experienced repeated threats, harassment, mistreatment, or being purposely made fun of, online or through electronic devices.

Girls experience cyberbullying more frequently than boys.  And LGBTQ youth face cyberbullying up to 3 times as often.

Cyberbullying Victims More Often Female

cyberbullying victims

Cyberbullying victims are more often female.  And the disparity in cyberbully rates due to gender is significant.

Cyberbullying Victims – Risk Factors

According to a recently published article, “How Dangerous is Cyberbullying?,” girls are 2.6 times more likely to be cyberbullied than boys.

The article also reports that women are victims of cyber harassment at twice the rate of men, with 53% of women reporting they had previously received unwanted sexually explicit images.

Cyberbullying and cyber harassment involve intimidating or embarrassing a victim through methods such as:


The victim’s personally identifying details are published online.


The victim is impersonated online.

Happy slapping

Damaging or embarrassing photos or videos are published online.

Cyberbullying is considered an increasingly significant public health problem.

Victims of cyberbullying may suffer serious negative social, mental, and physical effects as a result—including increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Various states have enacted criminal laws prohibiting cyberbullying.  Cyberbullying and cyber harassment may also be fought through civil litigation.

An experienced lawyer can help you explore and evaluate your legal options to help stop cyberbullying.

Airbnb lawsuit raises question of duty to warn of host’s arrest record

On this blog, we previously considered whether an Airbnb host could face liability for an assault committed by some third person.

Now, the company itself, Airbnb, faces the question of whether it can be held liable for the sexual assault of a guest, allegedly committed by an Airbnb host.

Airbnb is a well known peer-to-peer online platform enabling travelers around the world to lease and stay in others’ homes.  For each transaction on its platform, Airbnb receives a percentage as its fee.

In what the Guardian describes as “a first-of-its-kind” lawsuit, a guest sued Airbnb this week alleging that she was sexually assaulted by her host after renting a room through the online service.

The crux of the Complaint is that Airbnb wrongfully permitted the host to list property on Airbnb’s site in light of a previous arrest (involving domestic violence).

Knowledge of this prior arrest would, the lawsuit claims, have been available to Airbnb through the background checks conducted.

And, presumably, if disclosed, this information would have prevented the plaintiff from leasing the room.

The case raises basic questions of duty under premises liability actions, only this time applied to a new world.

Airbnb admits that it conducted a background check on the host in question—but claimed that the company did not bar the host from listing his property on Airbnb because he had never actually been convicted of the alleged crime.

There can be little doubt that the question of what weight an arrest alone should carry generally in our society is a legitimate one.

But this particular case raises the question of whether Airbnb can reasonably be said to have induced reliance based on the company’s assurances (implied or express) of safety:

Teresa Li, Lapayowker’s attorney, argued that Airbnb misleads users with branding that emphasizes the safety of the platform and calling it a “trusted community marketplace”.

They lure you in and give you this false sense of security,” she said.

Distilled to its essence, the question becomes did Airbnb have an affirmative duty to warn (whether as a matter of policy or foreseeability) of prior events that were revealed to the company through its background checks?

Or, from another angle, does Airbnb become a virtual landowner by listing and making properties available through its platform, sufficient to give rise to a duty to warn of associated dangers?

This question of whether Airbnb had a duty to pass on information of which the company had superior knowledge should most certainly be left for a jury to decide.