The second annual Digital Empowers Summit in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, brought together representatives from business, the technology sector, government and community organizations to highlight tech innovations for both business and social good.
The May 10 summit featured panel discussions on the future of work; health, wellness and accessibility; smart cities; and supply chain diversity and ethics. I participated in a panel on digital citizenship, a focus area that has evolved for Microsoft over the last 15 years. My fellow panelists were Lauren Culbertson, public policy manager at Twitter, and Nneka Norville, senior director for corporate responsibility at BET Networks. Our talk was moderated by David Almacy, founder of CapitalGig LLC. The panel, “Cyberheroes to the Rescue! Truth, Internet Activism, and Integrity in the Social Network Era,” allowed each company to share its work in helping to promote positive, productive and people-focused online communities worldwide.
For Microsoft, the summit offered another opportunity to discuss our work to advance digital civility – safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions among all people. This effort stems from our earlier work in digital citizenship and online safety. Research that we conducted between 2010 and 2012 in computing safety served as a springboard for our current research in digital civility. We’re entering the fourth year of our digital civility campaign and will again release survey findings – this time from respondents in 25 countries – on international Safer Internet Day 2020. The studies poll teens and adults about their exposure to more than 20 online risks across four categories: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive.
Our most recent findings based on research in 22 countries showed, for example, that:
- Digital civility, as measured by the Microsoft Digital Civility Index, is on the rise in several countries, including Belgium, France, Germany and the U.S.;
- Unwanted contact remains a common risk among online users, although its prevalence declined in the latest report;
- Behavioral risk types are defined by bullying, while sexual risks are driven by receiving unwelcome imagery and messages, and
- Now more than ever, teens across the globe are turning to their parents and other trusted adults for help with online risks.
These results and other related studies underscore the need for continued awareness-raising of and engagement in online safety issues, as well as common sense online habits and practices – new digital social norms – that everyone can get behind. Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge is a good place to start. We’re asking people to pledge to live by four basic tenets for life online, and to tell us on social media that they’re taking part. Use the hashtags #Challenge4Civility and #Im4DigitalCivility and commit to:
- Live the Golden Rule and treat each other with respect and dignity online and off
- Respect differences
- Pause before replying to something or someone you may disagree with, and
- If it’s safe and prudent to do so, stand up for yourself and others online.
(Click here to read the full Digital Civility Challenge.)
To help advance digital civility, I mentioned during the summit panel a pilot program that we created for teens in the United States. Our inaugural Microsoft Council for Digital Good, although ended last year, established a group of youth ambassadors from 12 U.S. states, who remain active on these issues today. I reunited with some of them earlier this week in D.C., when the first lady of the United States held an event at the White House, commemorating the one-year anniversary of her Be Best initiative. Be Best focuses on children’s well-being, online safety and preventing opioid abuse. The first lady spent time with each of our 15 council members last summer as she promoted her initiative and they shared their council assignments and creative works.
For more about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Digital Empowers Summit, see the Chamber website. For additional information about online safety and digital civility, visit our website, webpage and resources page, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.