Keeping the Internet safer through Digital Civility

 |   Singapore News Center

Technology is a powerful tool that can empower people to achieve more, yet few realise that with every benefit that technology brings, it can also enable negativity, especially in the digital space. It is becoming commonplace to see hate speech, negative comments and alternative facts being posted and circulated online, and this in turn, has an adverse impact on reputations, privacy, relationships and in extreme cases, physical safety.

Closer to home, the number of cyberbullying cases in Singapore are reportedly on the rise, and this is increasingly becoming a situation of concern. Data from a 2014 study by Touch Wellness revealed that one in three secondary school students have been victims of cyberbullying, while a 2012 Microsoft study found that Singapore had the second highest rate of cyberbullying worldwide after China.

Today on Safer Internet Day (SID), Microsoft is challenging people around the world to embrace “digital civility” and treat each other with respect and dignity online. While this may sound simple, findings from a new Microsoft survey showed that people are concerned about the tone and consequences of online interactions, and are worried that risks will increase in the future.

The new Microsoft Digital Civility Index (DCI), which we announced today, was designed to measure consumers’ lifetime exposure to online risks. Based on findings from a survey completed in June 2016 on the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) in 14 countries[1] about the state of digital civility today, the DCI measured the respondents’ lifetime exposure to 17 online risks across four areas: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive.

Findings from the Microsoft Digital Civility Index (DCI)

Results from the survey showed that an individual has experienced an average of 2.2 online safety risks out of the 17 included in the survey, and the top five online risks experienced are:

  1. Unwanted contact
  2. Being treated mean
  3. Trolling
  4. Receiving unwanted sexts
  5. Online harassment

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Two out of three respondents said they had fallen victim to at least one risk; that percentage swelled to 78 percent when participants also accounted for the online experiences of their friends and family members
  • 50 percent reported being “extremely or very” worried about life online generally
  • 62 percent said they did not know or were unsure of where to get help when they encountered an online risk
  • Respondents ranked a “loss of trust in others, increased stress, and sleep deprivation” as the leading, real-world consequences of negative online interactions

Based on the results, DCI scores were then calculated by using the percentage of consumers who were exposed at some point in time to at least one of 17 different online risks. Lower scores equate to lower online risk exposure and a higher digital civility.

Join the Digital Civility Challenge  

As a participant of Safer Internet Day since 2004, Microsoft is encouraging all consumers to join in the Digital Civility Challenge to learn about online safety risk from the DCI. The Challenge calls on people to commit daily to four ideals and to share their pledge on social media, using the hashtags #Challenge4Civility and #Im4DigitalCivility.

Along with the DCI, we are also sharing some best practices for digital civility. You can also find out more about how you can start championing digital civility on our website and resources page.

This Safer Internet Day, as we continue to strive for progress, we must remain mindful that digital civility – grounded in empathy – is everyone’s responsibility.  We hope to see digital civility become a common behavior, as we collectively build and support a safe and trusted online environment where everyone is empowered to share, create, learn and fully participate.

[1] Countries surveyed: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.