The startling connection between dating apps and online harassment – users almost twice as likely to be victims

Online harassment has become more severe over the years.1 The anonymity offered by the internet creates an environment where name-calling, belittling, and derisive comments have come to characterize how many view discourse online. In recent years, more severe forms of harassment, such as swatting, have started to become more commonplace, with some instances of harassment even resulting in fatalities.2 

As more social activities, like group hangouts, gaming, and even classes move online, it can be difficult for internet users to protect themselves from such attacks. Online dating is no exception. Dating apps generally require users to provide information such as a full name, gender, age, sexual orientation, pictures, location, and a phone number or email address, making them a trove of sensitive data.

To help us determine the prevalence of online harassment, general levels of awareness around the issue, and its connection with personal data, Incogni’s researchers carried out a survey of 1,008 American adults. Among other insights, we discovered that people who use dating apps experience nearly twice as much online harassment, including swatting attacks.

Key insights

  • Nearly one in five internet users (19%) in the US have experienced at least one form of cyber abuse—with the most common being cyberbullying (40%), hate speech (31%), and trolling (30%).
  • Women were more affected than men by sexual harassment (36% vs 12%), online impersonation (33% vs 18%), and cyberstalking (24% vs 14%).
  • 37% of Americans are aware that their personal data is available online, with 76% aware of the link between exposed data and the facilitation of potential online abuse or harassment.
  • 36% of Americans currently using dating apps have suffered online abuse, almost twice as many as among the general American population. The most frequent types of harassment among dating-app users are cyberbullying and hate speech

Online harassment survey results

The survey results provided an interesting perspective on Americans’ experiences with online harassment, the links they perceive between data collection and the occurrence of online harassment, and other contributing factors. Our researchers found significant differences by age and gender, though not always as may have been predicted or expected.

 According to our survey of US adults, nearly one in five internet users (19%) reported having been the victim of at least one form of cyber abuse. Interestingly, the percentage of men who reported cyber abuse was higher than women, 21% vs 17%, respectively.

The most common forms of online abuse or harassment our respondents experienced were cyberbullying (40%), hate speech (31%), and trolling (30%). There were no significant differences in the rates of occurrence between men and women for most of these, including cyberbullying, doxxing, swatting, trolling, hate speech, revenge porn, harassment in online gaming, and physical threats. However, women were more affected than men when it came to sexual harassment (36% vs 12%), online impersonation (33% vs 18%), and cyberstalking (24% vs 14%).

While the percentage of some of the most dangerous reported forms of online harassment, doxxing and swatting, are comparatively low (9% and 6%, respectively), they are worth noting as they can lead to physical harm.

When it comes to awareness, 37% of respondents reported that they know what personal data is available online. Furthermore, 76% were aware of the link between data being available online and the facilitation of potential online abuse or harassment. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the youngest groups we surveyed (18–24 and 25–34 years), reported being aware of the availability of their data the most often (44% of respondents in their age groups), while those between 45 and 54 years reported being aware least often (28% of respondents in their age group).

However, when it comes to awareness of the connection between publicly available data and online abuse and harassment, the percentage went up steadily with age. This implies that, while younger Americans may be more aware of what data is collected, older Americans are more concerned about the potential consequences.

68% of respondents selected oversharing personal information as a reason for falling victim to cyber abuse or cybercrime, with a significantly higher percentage of women sharing this opinion than men (70% vs 64%, respectively).

62% indicated that online abuse and cybercrime may be the result of online scams, phishing attacks, or social engineering being used to manipulate individuals into giving away their information. 

52% of respondents blamed weak passwords and 51% reported it might also be due to a lack of cybersecurity awareness.

Dating apps and cyber abuse

Having gathered a general understanding of online harassment, we entered dating apps into the equation to understand what kind of impact they can have on online harassment.

To do this, we first looked at our respondents’ experience with dating apps. 78% reported having some experience with dating apps, 13% are currently using dating apps, and 65% said they have used them in the past.

Our researchers found that the respondents who currently use dating apps experience nearly twice as much online harassment as the general population (36% vs 19%), a statistically significant difference. 

The most common types of crimes dating-app users reported experiencing are cyberbullying (37%) and hate speech (30%). They also experienced more frequent trolling and sexual harassment, both experienced by 24% of those using dating apps.

Again, the occurrence of swatting remains comparatively low but was notably higher among users of dating apps (15%) when compared to the general population (6%). This could mean dating apps expose users to much higher risks of physical harm.


The consequences of online harassment aren’t limited to the digital world. They can extend to the mental and emotional well-being of the victims, often leading to anxiety, depression, and an overall sense of vulnerability. In some cases, extreme forms of online harassment, such as swatting, can even put lives at risk. 

With users of dating apps experiencing nearly double the rates of online harassment, it’s important for individuals looking to find meaningful connections on these apps to be aware of the increased risks involved and take the necessary precautions. General tips like being careful about what personal information users share and with whom, choosing privacy-respecting dating apps, and reporting all instances of harassment can mitigate some of the risks. 


Our research team conducted the survey using the Cint platform. We surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,008 adults residing in the United States. The quotas on age, gender, and place of residence are based on US demographic data. 

Data was collected January 15 – 19, 2024.

For detailed information used in this study, visit our public dataset


  1. Pew Research Center. “The State of Online Harassment.” Published January 13, 2021.
  2. CNN. “An Ohio gamer gets prison time over a ‘swatting’ call that led to a man’s death.” Updated September 14, 2019.


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