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Digital Civility Plunges to a Four-year Low

Rise in online trolling, hate speeches, unwanted contact and sexting pull India down to 13th position

That internet provides a medium to express yourself freely is universally known and agreed upon. But, the manner in which you interact with others is a matter of discussion. The recently released Microsoft Digital Civility Index (DCI) reveals that people are increasingly losing their civility in their online interactions.

Four-year low

The latest survey reveals that digital civility dipped to its lowest in four years since the research commenced in 2016. The survey was carried out in 25 countries and ranked the countries on the basis of the responses gathered from teenagers and adults. The respondents shared their views about their perceptions of online life and their exposure to risks in four major categories including reputational, behavioural, sexual and personal/intrusive.

The top and bottom five

The UK with 52% is the most civilized digital community followed by the Netherlands at second spot with 56%. The other three countries completing the top five bracket include Germany (58%), Malaysia (59%) and the U.S. (60%). India with a score of 71% is at the 13th spot climbing down 6 notches from its seventh position last year. The worst off countries in terms of online civility are South Africa (83%), Peru (81%), Colombia (80%), Russia (79%)  and Vietnam (78%).

Appearance and politics drive incivility

The primary drivers of incivility, the report suggests, are physical appearance and politics at 31% with sexual orientation following closely at 30%. Religion and race were reported at 26% and 25% respectively. However, the drivers of incivility differed not just by gender but also the age groups—teenagers and adults. While teenagers and adult females reported physical appearance as the key driver, politics was the chosen determiner for adult males.

The two groups were on the accord, at 66%, that social media networks were the most prominent outlets for online incivility. The respondents also reported experiencing significantly increased risks—especially sexual solicitation or unwanted contact—more frequently.

The Indian scenario

In India, unwanted contact and sexting are the most prominent online risks for netizens, followed by trolling and hate speech. The statistics for India show that 45% of the victims that experienced online risks knew the perpetrators. Among the teenagers, 71% experienced online risks and 81% believed they would be accosted again.

A New Hope for the new decade

Respondents are hopeful that the coming decade would improve civility and that there would be more respect (66%), safety (57%), freedom (33%), civility (32%) and kindness (26%). Half of the respondents are also hopeful that there will be tools and policies that will encourage more respectful online behaviour and discourage poor conduct. Nearly 34% of respondents hope for a decline in online sexual harassment of women and 33% each hope online political discourses become more constructive and that fewer teens are bullied online.

Measures for a safer, respectful digital world

The survey findings are released in conjunction with Safer Internet Day and promote measures for safer and more respectful online interactions. Microsoft exhorts netizens to:

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

Neetu Katyal, Content and Marketing Consultant

She can be reached on LinkedIn.

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