Challenges Citizens to Embrace Empathy Online
Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft
(Redmond, WA, Tuesday, February 7, 2017) – It’s Safer Internet Day 2017, and Microsoft is challenging digital citizens around the world to embrace “digital civility” and to treat each other with respect and dignity online. It may sound simple, but new Microsoft research shows people are concerned about the tone of online interactions and worry that risks will increase in the future.
We are now sharing details of a study conducted in 14 countries, gauging attitudes and perceptions among teens and adults about 17 different online risks. From respondents’ risk exposure, we calculated what we’re calling a Digital Civility Index for each country, as well as an international reading across all surveyed geographies.
The international Digital Civility Index stands at 65, and yielded an average of 2.2 risks per person. Online risk exposure rises 13 points when a person’s family and friends are included, and the average number of risks encountered more than doubles to 4.9.
The index works like a golf score: the lower the value (out of 100), the lower the respondents’ risk exposure and the higher the perceived level of online civility among citizens in that country. Countries that registered the lowest index readings (and thus the highest levels of perceived digital civility) were the U.K. (45) Australia (51) and the U.S. (55). Countries on the lower end were South Africa (78), Mexico (76) and Russia (74). The new index builds on the Microsoft Computing Safety Index released from 2010 to 2013, and specifically that index’s behavioral component.
We surveyed young people, ages 13 to 17 and adults, ages 18 to 74 about the state of online civility today as measured by their lifetime exposure to the 17 risks across four categories: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive. Specifically, the research asked about:
- How people feel about civility, safety and interactions online
- Specific online risks that respondents and their close circle have experienced
- How concerned participants are about those risks
- When and how often the risks occurred
- Consequences and any actions taken, and
- Where respondents turned for help.
Here are some highlights from the international results, covering all respondents:
- 65 percent of those surveyed 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, with the top five most common negative experiences being unwanted contact (43 percent), being treated mean (22 percent), trolling and receiving unwanted sexts (21 percent) and online harassment (17 percent)
- 62 percent said they do not know or were unsure where to get help when they encountered an online risk.
In an attempt to put empathy more front and center in digital dialogues, we have is launched Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge, which consists of four basic tenets. The Challenge calls on global digital citizens to commit daily and to share their progress on social media, using the hashtags #Challenge4Civility and #Im4Civility. Specifically, we’re encouraging individuals to:
- Be their best selves online by leading and acting with empathy, and treating others with respect and dignity
- Practice digital decorum by controlling urges to respond impulsively and by refraining from posting, sending, or sharing hateful or harmful content
- Give some space and appreciate cultural differences and diverse perspectives. And, if disagreements emerge, to debate constructively and thoughtfully without name calling or personal attacks, and
- Stand up for others and one’s self by identifying risks, sharing concerns, supporting those targeted, and reporting offenders for abusive and cruel behavior.
You can see the full Challenge by visiting www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility