Women are pretending to be men online to avoid misogynistic attacks so nasty they've included a "barrage of death threats, rape threats and bomb threats", a British academic has claimed.
A survey of more than 100 prominent female technology journalists aimed at uncovering the extent of cyber-sexism found one in five were so intimidated by threats of violence and rape they took steps to hide their gender.
In total, Catherine Adams, senior lecturer in communications at Nottingham Trent University, found 62% of respondents had been subject to sexist abuse.
A study by Nottingham Trent University lecturer Catherine Adams found that one in five women had masked their gender online to avoid abuse
Adams said while her research was confined to a specific field the study should serve as a warning that sexism may be flourishing in the "cesspits" of the internet.
She told the Mirror Online: "It was chilling to find out that that this kind of abuse seems to be the norm.
"This is the front line of the gender battle."
Adams said women who make computer games were particularly vulnerable to attacks, saying: "They continue to face a barrage of death threats, rape threat and bomb threats."
Adams said survey participants had suffered panic attacks and even had nervous breakdowns. The abuse, Adams said, was "brutal, devastating and life frightening".
She said the degree of abuse should be regarded as a violent act because it can have physical repercussions and force women out of their jobs and homes.
The academic spoke to a range of women including games developer Zoe Quinn who came under attack from a group of men known as GamerGate.
Zoe Quinn came under attack online by a group of men known as GamerGate
Quinn, 27, received countless rape threats and was forced to leave her home.
Adams said: "Men are like wounded dinosaurs, fighting to stop women getting involved in places they used to be comfortable.
"Women tell me that men get more and more angry the more successful they become."
Before publishing the study, Adams took down her social media profiles to protect her own safety and her employer took steps to protect the security of her workplace emails.
Adams said this level of support was rare with women often left to fend for themselves, saying: "It doesn't seem to matter until someone's blood is spilled."