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By 12 February 2020 | Categories: news

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In the wake of Safer Internet Day this week, Microsoft is challenging people around the world to embrace “digital civility” and treat each other with respect and dignity online.

As a 16-year SID participant, Microsoft is rallying global consumers to take the Digital Civility Challenge and learn about online safety risks in its latest Digital Civility Index. Microsoft’s Index is based on a survey completed in May 2019 to gauge the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) in 25 countries about the state of digital civility today.

It asked questions like, “which online risks have you and your close circle experienced, when and how often have the risks occurred, and what consequences and actions were taken?” — and it measured respondents’ lifetime exposure to 21 online risks across four areas: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive. 

Microsoft’s Digital Civility Index reveals exposure to online risks had increased significantly. The survey looked at 21 risks, with the top 5 risks being: 1) unwanted contact, 2) hoaxes/fraud/scams, 3) unwanted sexting, 4) being treated meanly, and 5) trolling. The Index also revealed:

· 70% of South Africa’s respondents see cyber bullying as one of the five most painful online risks while damage to professional reputation grew 10 points to 77% and damage to personal reputation declined by 12 points to 75%.

· Coming as little surprise is that race, followed by politics were the topics that drive the greatest civility online, at 56% and 41% respectively

· It is Baby Boomers, followed by Millenials that are most at risk online

· As well, social media sites were found to be the most common online spaces where digital incivility occurs

The most disturbing revelation from the study though shows that online risks are anything but innocuous – with them potentially causing debilitating pain and suicidal thoughts.

In the regions surveyed, South Africa did not fare well at all. It emerged as the top hotspot for intrusive risks, number two for behavioral risks and number four for both sexual and reputational risks.  

With the availability of the Challenge and Index data, Microsoft explained that it hopes policymakers, companies, and consumers will consider the need for a safer, more respectful internet and leverage the evidentiary base for a global push towards greater digital civility.

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