MORE than one in six women in Scotland have faced "online violence" – with young women and LGBT+ people being disproportionately affected by abuse.

The report, titled Online Violence Against Women: A Four Nations Study, represents the largest-ever study into online violence against women and girls (OVAWG) in both Scotland and the UK as a whole.

The term "online violence" refers to abusive acts committed against women and girls online, including  image-based sexual abuse, text-based abuse, cyberstalking, cyberbullying, the use of deepfakes, impersonation, threats of physical violence, trolling, online misogyny, sexting, doxing.

It said that Scottish women and girls are in "urgent need" of help in preventing online abuse – with the majority of women who reported suffering from online abuse stating that they were unsatisfied with the response.

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Designed and led by professor Olga Jurasz at The Open University, the study launched on Thursday examined which platforms Scottish women are experiencing the most online abuse and the nature of online attacks.

The report found X/Twitter was the most common platform for perpetrators of online abuse, followed by Facebook and Instagram.

The National: Twitter

As well as being more likely to experience and witness it, the online abuse faced by Scottish young people was more likely to be sexually explicit and text-based.

The incidents were also more likely to be committed by someone the victim did not already know. Young people were identified as the population that is least safe online in Scotland.

One in three young women (aged 16-24 and 25-34) in Scotland and Wales experienced OVAWG, compared with just one in four young women in England.

Half of LGBT+ people in Scotland suffered from OVAWG, whereas just over one in eight heterosexual women faced online abuse.

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The Open University is set to open a new centre protecting women and girls against online violence later this year to develop research to help prevent and reduce harm suffered by women and girls online. 

Jurasz, director of the new Centre for Protecting Women Online, said: “This study gives a unique insight into women’s experiences of online violence, its scale and impact across the UK.

“It provides previously unavailable data which hopefully will lead the way to evidence-based law and policy interventions tackling the modern phenomenon of online violence against women and improving women’s safety online.”

Scottish women also noted impacts extending beyond the online realm, such as changing the way they act on social media as well as enduring detrimental effects on their mental and physical health.

Half of those surveyed agreed that the Scottish Government should be doing more to prevent and reduce online abuse.