NEW YORK—December 13, 2016—A new report from the Data & Society Research Institute and the Center for Innovative Public Health Research offers the first national statistics on the prevalence of nonconsensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn.” The study finds that 4% of U.S. internet users—roughly 10.4 million Americans—have been threatened with or experienced the posting of explicit images without their consent.
The report, “Nonconsensual Image Sharing,” is based on a nationally-representative telephone survey and offers the first-ever national data on the proportion of American internet users ages 15 and older who have experienced or been threatened with “revenge porn” – that is, when someone shows, sends, or posts nude or nearly nude photos or videos of someone else without the consent of the person pictured.
Roughly 3% of online Americans have had someone threaten to post nude or nearly nude photos or videos of them online to hurt or embarrass them, and 2% have had someone post an explicit photo or video of them online without their permission. Taken together, 4% of U.S. internet users—roughly 10.4 million Americans—have been a victim of “revenge porn” through threats or actual posting of sensitive images.
“This is the first national data that can tell us how many people have been affected by actual or threatened nonconsensual pornography,” said Amanda Lenhart, a Researcher at Data & Society Research Institute and one of the authors of the report. “Nonconsensual pornography can have a devastating and lasting impact on victims, so it’s vital that we understand how common this is and who is affected.”
Internet users who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) are far more likely than those who identify as heterosexual to have experienced threats of or actual nonconsensual image-sharing: 15% of LBG internet users in the U.S. say someone has threatened to post an explicit image an image of them, and 7% say someone has actually posted such an image.
“Nonconsensual Image Sharing” compliments an earlier report covering the prevalence of online harassment and abuse more broadly. “Our findings show that particular groups—such as young adults and lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans—are not only much more likely to be victims of nonconsensual pornography, but are more likely to experience a range of online harassment and abuse,” Lenhart said. “This includes other types of privacy violations, such as having their online or phone activity monitored, or having their passwords stolen or coerced by others.”
Even if images are never actually posted publically, perpetrators may use threats to post such images as a method of controlling or intimidating victims. Young women are particularly likely to have experienced this: 10% of women under the age of 30 have had someone threaten to post explicit photos of them.
However, while women are more likely to be threatened with nonconsensual pornography, men and women were equally likely to have photos or videos of themselves actually posted. In fact, 4% of men and 6% of women under 30 have had someone post a nearly nude or nude image of them without their permission.
“It’s incredibly important that we recognize that men are also victims of nonconsensual pornography,” said Michele Ybarra, President and Research Director at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research and one of the authors of the report. “When we talk about victims of ‘revenge porn,’ male victims are often invisible—but hopefully this report will challenge us to think differently.”
About the survey
The findings in this report are based on the results of a nationally representative survey of 3,002 Americans 15 and older conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from May 17 through July 31, 2016. Respondents were contacted by landline and cell phone, and interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The study was funded by a grant from the Digital Trust Foundation.
About Data & Society
Data & Society is a research institute in New York City that is focused on social and cultural issues arising from data-centric technological development. Data & Society is committed to identifying issues at the intersection of technology and society, providing research that can ground public debates, and building a network of researchers and practitioners who can offer insight and direction. For more, visit datasociety.net.
About the Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CiPHR)
The Center for Innovative Public Health Research, also known as CiPHR, examines the impact that technology has on health and how it can be used to affect health. We have developed programs to reduce HIV transmission, increase smoking cessation, and provide supportive resources for youth experiencing cyberbullying and people with depression. CiPHR is a non-profit, public health research incubator founded under the previous name, Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc. (ISK). Our vision is to promote positive human development through the creation and implementation of innovative and unique technology-based research and health education programs. Public health is ever evolving and so are we. For more, visit innovativepublichealth.org.
Seth Young, Data & Society