Microsoft study reveals an increase in negative online experiences in Australia

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  • Asia-Pacific markets report diverse findings, with the region reporting some of the best and worst online experiences for 2020
  • From 2017 to 2020, Australia’s Digital Civility Index score worsened by 7 points to 62; yet the country remains better performing than much of the region1
  • Global increases in experiences of hoaxes, frauds and scams, hate speech and discrimination

AUSTRALIA, 9 FEBRUARY 2021 – Microsoft today unveiled results from its annual study, “Civility, Safety, and Interactions Online – 2020” along with findings from its 2020 Digital Civility Index (DCI). Results from Microsoft’s metric showed that Australia performed better than much of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region in online civility in 2020, with a DCI score of 62 compared with APAC’s score of 66[1]. Australia’s DCI score however worsened from 2017’s score of 55, indicating that more people are experiencing negative online interactions or encountering online risks.

A few risks have become more prevalent for Australia’s online users since 2017, when the survey was last conducted in Australia- including a 2% increase in hate speech to 13%, one-point increase in hoaxes, scams, and frauds to 29%, and an 8% increase in discrimination to 16%.

The latest instalment of the DCI survey, which has been conducted annually for the past five years, surveyed around 16,000 respondents in 32 geographies, and was completed in April to May 2020[2]. The research polled adults and teenagers about their interactions online and experiences of online risks. This year’s research included nine APAC geographies: Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“Microsoft’s annual study on digital civility is crucial to raising awareness and encouraging positive online interactions. Our societies are relying on and embracing digital technologies more than ever amid COVID-19, and a safer internet will improve experiences and shape the well-being of our communities,” said Liz Thomas, Regional Digital Safety Lead, Asia-Pacific, Microsoft. “This Safer Internet Day, we are reminded that governments, organizations and individuals all have a part to play in helping to make the internet a better place for work and play.”

Teen’s experiences led to worsened DCI score

Teenagers (aged 13-16) in Australia were found to drive the deterioration in DCI score, worsening by 12 points, compared to three for adults. This indicates more teens were experiencing online risks.

Additionally, 14% of respondents in Australia said online civility was better during the pandemic, attributed to people reconnecting with family and friends and coming together to deal with the crisis, while 17% cited online civility as worse due to people feeling scared and lonely, and greater expression of frustrations online.

The risks faced by online users are also increasingly anonymous and recent, with 12% of Australian respondents reporting an online risk experienced in the past week, and 30% saying that the risk they experienced came from strangers online.

“It’s heartening to witness digital citizens come together to uplift online communities during the pandemic,” added Thomas. “Nonetheless, threats such as discrimination and uncivil behaviours online continue to pervade society, requiring us all to take positive action.”

Moving into the new year, Australians’ top wishes for the next decade were for better respect (66%), safety (56%), kindness (36%), civility (29%) and freedom (21%).

Responding to build a safer internet

Within Australia and APAC, Microsoft works with governments, academics, civil society, and other stakeholders to share best practices on digital safety, help inform policy and regulatory debates, and advocate for a respectful, healthy online environment.

To foster a better and safer internet, Microsoft also champions the Digital Civility Challenge, which outlines four principles that online users can commit to, namely:

  1. Living the “golden rule” – To act with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treat everyone online with dignity and respect
  2. Respecting differences – To appreciate cultural differences and honor diverse perspectives, engaging thoughtfully and avoiding name calling and personal attacks
  3. Pausing before replying – To pause and think before responding and not post or send anything that could hurt someone else, damage someone’s reputation, or threaten safety
  4. Standing up for yourself and others – To tell someone when feeling unsafe, offering support to those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, and report activity that threatens safety

More tips from Microsoft on online safety can be found at, with frequent updates on Facebook (@saferonline) and Twitter (@Safer_Online).

Full results from Microsoft’s 2020 digital civility research can be found at

[1] With the DCI, a lower score indicates better online civility

[2] Of those surveyed, 502 were from Australia


Digital Civility Infographic
Digital Civility Index AU Infopgrahic



About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more

For more information, please contact:

Microsoft Australia
Elizabeth Greene
[email protected]
Corporate Communications Lead


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