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Microsoft study shows online abuse often comes from people’s own social circles


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Marking the Safer Internet Day 2018 which fell on 56 February, Microsoft released its second annual Digital Civility Index (DCI) study based on a survey completed in June 2017 to gauge the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) in 23 countries about the state of digital civility today. 

The survey asked questions such as, “which online risks have you and your close circle experienced?”, “when and how often have the risks occurred?”, and “what consequences and actions were taken?”, and measured respondents’ lifetime exposure to 20 online risks across four areas: reputational, behavioral, sexual and personal/intrusive.

According to the DCI, targets of online risks often named people they knew as perpetrators. For the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of respondents (53%) said they had some familiarity with their online abusers. Less than a third (29%) said they knew the perpetrator personally: 15% responded that the perpetrator was a friend or a family member, while nearly one in six(14%) said the perpetrator was an acquaintance. 

The respondents’ exposure to online risks among individuals, family or friends was, on average, lower than the rest of world. Millennials (ages 18-34) had the highest lifetime exposure to online risks as measured by the study (65%) while Baby Boomers (ages 50-74) reported the highest level of civil behavior or lowest DCI score (45%). 

The consequences from online risks (i.e. unwanted contact, hoaxes/fraud/scams, being treated meanly, receiving unwanted sexting messages, trolling, etc.) were higher for females and teens than males and adults.

Similar to the previous year, Microsoft is again encouraging people worldwide to embrace “digital civility,” and to treat each other with respect and dignity online by participating in Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge. The challenge calls on people to commit daily to four common-sense guidelines—live the Golden Rule, respect differences, pause before replying and stand up for yourself and others—for safer, healthier online interactions. 

With the availability of the DCI, Microsoft hopes policymakers, companies, and consumers will consider the need for a safer, more respectful internet and leverage the evidentiary base for a global push toward “digital civility.”


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