RESEARCH: Online violence – The perspective of experts and students
Friday, Jun 24

In the context of the “Time to Talk” project, a research was carried out by the University of West Attica, the University of Peloponnese – Knowledge and Uncertainty Research Laboratory and the Democritus University of Thrace.

The research had 2 main research questions:

What kind of violence is there on the (Greek) Internet?

What are the emerging forms of online violence?

The reason that this research is carried out is:

To find out what there is and to plan ways of dealing with it.

To prepare for what is coming.

Due to the nature of the research, in order to collect data that would be indicative of the situation, interviews with experts, focus groups with students and questionnaires were organized.

Interviews were participated by experts who are in the front line of observing and dealing with online violence phenomena, such as the Greek Association of People Living with HIV, the “Smile of the Child” and the Hellenic Police-Cyber Crime Unit. The focus groups were participated by students from all three universities, whereas questionnaires were given to students of these universities, but were also available online.

Multiple conclusions were drawn from the data analysis. The online violence phenomena seem to be widespread, since most participants have come into contact directly or indirectly through their environment with some form of online violence. Younger ages mention sexual violence as one of the main threats, whereas older participants mention that they are more afraid of online economic frauds. This conclusion is consistent with the assessment of the Hellenic Police for the increase of economic violence in the near future. Therefore, it seems that the increasing trend of economic violence phenomena is already in the minds of older people and is also possibly related to an insecurity in using the Internet and familiarity with new technologies. The possible co-relation between fear of online economic violence and computer literacy was not studied in this research, but should be a point of future research.

It is also important to look at the qualitative characteristics of the research; a very high number of responses indicated a combination of factors and not just one option. Therefore, violence against specific social groups, along with bullying and economic violence are of particular concern to students of all ages. The image we get by the questionnaires, along with the image that emerged from the interviews with the experts and the focus groups, shows widespread violence on the Internet, in many forms, which, however, seems to be summarized in 4 main categories, as also reflected in the questionnaire. These categories are bullying (and verbal violence, as mentioned by some participants), sexual violence, violence and targeting of specific social groups, and economic violence. We believe that a future research should investigate possible ways to combat these phenomena.

Lastly, experts and students agree that a particularly important factor of online violence is the anonymity provided by the Internet, which seems to contribute decisively to the dynamics of these incidents.

In conclusion, this research revealed an image of widespread violence on the Internet that is not limited to a national level, whereas multiple trends are now also appearing on the Greek Internet (gender-based forms of violence). Participants were not asked about ways to deal with such phenomena, since this research only tried a mapping of the area. A future research should examine ways of dealing with them, as well as methods of intervention at multiple levels (education, media, etc.)

Lastly, the main points investigated are summarized in the following table and basic definitions are provided.

Form of violenceDescription
Revenge pornMaterial of sexual content is uploaded to get revenge on the victim.
Sexual contentContent against women.
Racist contentContent against minorities or other social, national, religious groups etc.
Extremist contentContent by radicalized groups, usually calling for violent acts. 
CyberbullyingPhysical or psychological violence online.
Seduction of minorsUse of the Internet to force children into sexual acts.
SextortionExtraction of sexual material from individuals and asking either for money or any other material goods, or a physical meeting with the victim.
SextingBlackmail in a relationship of the children, who send some material to the partner. This material is leaked to their classmates.
DoxxingStealing of IP data and finding personal details of users, such as full name, address and telephone. Hacking of accounts. Doxxing ends when all details of the victim are disclosed. The victims are usually activists, etc. Thus, the victim should change place of residence, hide and be afraid.
OutingDisclosure of information that the victim wanted to be secret, such as sexual identity, etc.
Malicious softwareMainly used for economic frauds.
SurveillanceMonitoring an individual through technological means, without him/her knowing about it.
Cancel culture“Withdrawal of support” with the purpose of canceling public figures, communities and companies after they have done or said something that may be or is considered as illegal or unacceptable or offensive and is expressed on social media in the form of collective disgust. “Source:»
Live abuse roomsThe abuser informs the audience that at a certain time a victim, usually a child, will be abused. The audience pays a ticket, opens the camera and watches the abuse live. 
Crime as serviceNow there is no need for someone to be an expert to become an abuser. There are services that you can buy from hackers on the dark web.  
Social engineeringManipulation of individuals to deceive them.
Classification of materialSexual material (as a product of sexual cyberbullying) is classified in an increasingly better way and as a result it allows easy and targeted material research of specific victims. 
Investment fraudsThe victim believes that he/she makes some kind of investment, but is actually a fraud victim.
Bypassing of bank security measures, mostly via malicious software.

Below you may read the whole research in Greek: