The communications regulator found that 32% of VSP users had witnessed or experienced hateful content, of which most (59%) was directed at a racial group. Hateful content was also seen in relation to religious groups, transgender people and those of a particular sexual orientation.
A quarter of users (26%) claim to have been exposed to bullying, abusive behaviour and threats, and the same proportion have come across violent or disturbing content.
One in five users (21%) said they have witnessed or experienced racist content, with exposure higher among those from minority ethnic backgrounds (40%), compared with users from a white background (19%).
Most VSP users (70%) said they had been exposed to a potentially harmful experience in the last three months, rising to 79% among 13 to 17-year-olds.
Six in 10 users were unaware of platforms’ safety and protection measures, while only a quarter have ever flagged or reported harmful content.
The news comes as Ofcom proposes new guidance for VSPs, setting out practical steps to protect users from harmful material. VSPs are a type of online video service where users can upload and share videos with other members of the public. They allow people to engage with a wide range of content and social features.
Under laws introduced by Parliament last year, VSPs established in the UK must take measures to protect under-18s from potentially harmful video content; and all users from videos likely to incite violence or hatred, as well as certain types of criminal content.
Today’s guidance is designed to help these companies understand what is expected of them under the new rules, and to explain how they might meet their obligations in protecting users from harm.
Says Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Broadcasting and Online Content:
“Sharing videos has never been more popular, something we’ve seen among family and friends during the pandemic. But this type of online content is not without risk, and many people report coming across hateful and potentially harmful material.
“Although video services are making progress in protecting users, there’s much further to go. We’re setting out how companies should work with us to get their houses in order – giving children and other users the protection they need, while maintaining freedom of expression.”