Earlier this year, Microsoft called on people around the world to embrace “digital civility” in all online interactions by leading and acting with empathy, compassion and kindness. The concept appears to be taking hold, but there is still more work to be done, according to results of a new Microsoft research study.
Eighty-eight percent of teens and 87 percent of adults said they treat other people with respect and dignity online, while 84 percent of both age groups responded that they show respect for other people’s points of view. Three-quarters of young people and 77 percent of adults said they pause before replying to posts, texts and other content they disagree with, and nearly the same percentages said they stand up for themselves in the digital space (77 percent of teens, 73 percent of adults). Fewer – although still significant proportions – responded that they stand up for others online (65 percent of teens, 59 percent of adults).
Findings are from Microsoft’s latest research into digital civility around the world. We’re releasing these results on World Kindness Day to emphasize that it’s never too late to help foster safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions for everyone. “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online — 2017” polled teens ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 in 23 countries regarding 20 online risks. This year’s research builds on our first study done last year, which polled the same age demographics in 14 countries about 17 types of online abuse. Nearly 11,600 teens and adults participated in this year’s research.
Highlighting the research, our campaign for digital civility was launched on Safer Internet Day 2017 and featured our Digital Civility Challenge in which we asked people across the globe to commit to four basic tenets for life online:
- Treat others as you would like to be treated by acting with empathy, compassion, and kindness in every interaction, and affording everyone respect and dignity.
- Respect differences by honoring diverse perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engaging thoughtfully and avoid name-calling and personal attacks.
- Pause before replying to contrary comments and refrain from posting or sending anything that could hurt someone, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety.
- Stand up for oneself and others by supporting those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, reporting activity that threatens anyone’s safety and preserving evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behavior.
These challenge actions served as the basis for some new research questions this year. Still, more work appears to be needed. About half of teens see others demonstrating thoughtful consideration (51 percent) and standing up for others (52 percent) online, compared to 46 percent of adults, respectively. Those seeing people show respect for opposing views yielded similar results (54 percent of youth, 48 percent of adults). Meanwhile, respondents who saw others stand up for themselves online were higher: 66 percent of teens and 60 percent of adults.
Final results will be made available on international Safer Internet Day 2018 on Feb. 6, along with a year-over-year look at the Microsoft Digital Civility Index. The inaugural 14-country index, released earlier this year, represents respondents’ lifetime exposure to the 17 original online risks. (Our full Safer Internet Day 2017 release can be found at www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility.) A new international index reading will be announced next year, accounting for respondents’ experience with the expanded list of 20 online risks.
 Countries surveyed: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
 The 20 risks are grouped into four categories:
- Reputational – “Doxing” and damage to personal or professional reputations
- Behavioral – Being treated meanly; experiencing trolling, online harassment or bullying; encountering hate speech and microaggressions
- Sexual – Sending or receiving unwanted sexting messages and making sexual solicitations; being a victim of sextortion or non-consensual pornography (aka “revenge porn”)-
- Personal / Intrusive – Being the target of unwanted contact, experiencing discrimination, “swatting,” misogyny, exposure to extremist content/recruiting, or falling victim to hoaxes, scams or fraud.