John Oliver Nails Just How Terrifying The Internet Can Be For Women

06/22/2015 10:00 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2015

If you think that harassment isn't much of an issue on the Internet, John Oliver says you can thank your "white penis" for that lovely, non-threatening online experience.

On Sunday's episode of "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver broke down just how how hostile, if not dangerous, the Internet can be -- particularly for women. While most people who've posted something to the Internet are familiar with the hurtful messages that come up in any comment section, Oliver discussed something much more threatening.

In its most insidious form, Oliver reminded viewers that online harassment is defined as "direct threats that can make people fear for their safety.” As he points out, these types of threats are often directed at any woman who “has a thought in her mind and then [vocalizes] it online."

Oliver plays a clip from ABC News in which video game developer Brianna Wu describes her experience with violent threats and harassment online. “When someone posts your address online and they tell you they’re going to murder your whole family, you don’t really feel safe staying at that location,” she says. Wu is one of the many women who received death and rape threats after speaking out about sexism in the video game industry.

Oliver also addresses "revenge porn," another sexist phenomenon created by the Internet. Revenge porn is when someone posts personal, often intimate photos of (usually) a woman online without her consent.

Many revenge porn victims are told that it’s their fault because they shared these images with a person who shouldn't have been trusted or they’re told to “ignore it” because it will go away at some point. As Oliver points out, the Internet doesn't just "go away" -- it's integral to our everyday life.

“For a start, not taking pictures doesn’t always work. Sometimes these photos come from hacked webcams, but regardless of that it doesn’t matter how it happens," Oliver said, responding to the type of victim-blaming that often follows. "Here’s a fun game -- insert any other crime into those same sentences: ‘Listen guys, if you don’t want to get burgled don’t live in a house!’”

Women are very limited in the actions they can take if they become a victim of revenge porn. Forms of it are still legal in most parts of the country and only 23 states have laws against this type of online harassment. Oliver did share some good news including that Reddit and Twitter have finally banned revenge porn and Google recently announced it would remove revenge porn images upon request.

“We’ve allowed things to get a place where women can fear for their lives for something they said online," Oliver says.

We agree with John, it's definitely time for a change.

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