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Microsoft Publish Their Second Digital Civility Index Study

The purpose of Microsoft's DCI study is to better understand how threats to people's reputations, relationships and safety manifest themselves - and how we react to them. If you are affected by any kind online abuse, follow the links throughout this article to our trained support services.

Microsoft have published their second annual ‘Digital Civility Index’ (DCI) study, which focuses on people’s online interactions and responses to online risks, exploring the darker side of the internet and how it harms people. They want to understand how threats to people’s reputations, relationships, privacy and physical safety manifest themselves online, and also to raise awareness of the consequences.

In order to conduct this research, they gathered groups of 250 people between the ages of 18-74 and teens aged between 13-17 across 23 countries including Brazil, Russia and the United States. The groups completed a web based survey.

Microsoft found that a high percentage of people who took the survey (61%) were familiar with the perpetrator, 36% of those people knew the perpetrator personally and 17% of them recognized them as family or friends. Comparing data from their first DCI study, Microsoft also discovered major differences in results within genders, such as:

  • Females reported a higher amount of unwanted contact, online harassment and misogyny than males; as well as being more concerned about harassment and sexual risks.
  • Males reported a slightly higher frequency of risks than females and expressed a greater confidence in handling risks online than females.
  • Females were better at tightening their privacy settings on their social media and reducing the amount of shared information.

The study also highlights information based on the different age categories, such as:

  • They found that adults and teens both face the same level of exposure to online risks. Adults were more prone to intrusive and sexual risks whereas teens were more likely to have encountered behavioral risks.
  • Teens reported a much higher incidence of risks happening to friends and family. They had also experienced risks more frequently and recently than adults.
  • Family and friends were responsible for 22% of unsafe behavior directed at teens compared to the 13% directed at adults.

There were some positive findings – they discovered that in comparison to last year’s study, more people knew where to get help if they needed it and nearly half (46%) of people taking the survey explained that they felt extremely or very confident in their ability to handle online risks they may encounter.

Most people (66%) felt they strongly or somewhat agree that they have been treated in a safe and civil manner online and 71% of people said they always treat other people with respect and dignity.

In 2016, 17% of the people taking the survey reported confronting the perpetrator which has decreased significantly over the year, and now stands at 10% while retaliation has dropped from 17% down to a low of 9%.

In light of the ongoing study, Microsoft are confident that people’s digital interactions and responses to online risk appear to be improving globally.

“As we inspire a movement to unite and grow a culture of digital civility, we again share some best practices for all stakeholders. Indeed, technology companies large and small, law- and policy-makers, educators and school officials, parents, young people and members of civil society all have a role to play in fostering online experiences that start with empathy and highlight inclusion and respect.”

Microsoft Spokesperson

In order to create an inclusive online environment, Microsoft have also announced a ‘Digital Civility Challenge’ which is made up of 4 steps to encourage respect and diversity for everyone using the internet.

  1. Live the Golden Rule by acting with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treating everyone you connect with online with dignity and respect.
  2. Respect differences, honor diverse perspectives and when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully, and avoid name calling and personal attacks.
  3. Pause before replying to things you disagree with, and don’t post or send anything that could hurt someone else, damage reputations or threaten someone’s safety.
  4. Stand up for yourself and others by supporting those who are targets of online abuse and cruelty, reporting threatening activity and preserving evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behavior.

If you are affected by any kind of negativity or abuse online we can help. Visit our Cyberbullying and Digital Abuse Help Center for practical advice or use our Global Support Service for trained support – wherever you are in the world! For further information about Cybersmile and the work we do, please explore the following recommendations.

What are your thoughts about the Digital Civility Index and its findings so far? Tweet us @CybersmileHQ.