Microsoft Digital Civility Index reveals improved online experiences in India

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NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 9, 2021 – Microsoft today unveiled results from its annual study, “Civility, Safety, and Interactions Online – 2020” along with findings from its 2020 Digital Civility Index (DCI). Results from Microsoft’s metric showed that India’s score in online civility had improved to 68, this year, from that of 71 in 2019, indicating that fewer people are experiencing negative online interactions or encountering online risks. India however did not fare well compared to much of Asia-Pacific (APAC), which had an overall score of 66.

A few risks remain high for India’s online users – especially hate speech, which has doubled from 2016 to 26%. There has also been a 5% increase in hoaxes, scams, and frauds since 2017 to 22%, and 6% increase in discrimination since 2016 to 16%.

The latest instalment of the DCI survey, which has been conducted annually for the past five years, surveyed around 16,000 respondents in 32 geographies, and was completed in April to May 2020. The research polled adults and teenagers about their interactions online and experiences of online risks. This year’s research included nine APAC geographies: Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“Microsoft’s annual study on digital civility is crucial for raising awareness and encouraging positive online interactions. Our societies are relying on and embracing digital technologies more than ever before and a safer internet will improve experiences and shape the well-being of our communities,” said Keshav Dhakad, Group Head & General Counsel, Microsoft India. “This Safer Internet Day, we are reminded that governments, organizations and individuals all have a part to play in helping make the internet a better place for work and play.”

Teenagers drove positive improvements

Teenagers (aged 13-16) in India were found to be positive drivers for improvement in DCI performance, and scored 67 in the measure of online civility, as opposed to adults at 69.

Additionally, 38% of respondents in India said online civility was better during the pandemic, attributed to witnessing more people help others and a greater sense of community, while 22% cited online civility as worse due to greater spread of false and misleading information and more personal attacks or negative comments.

The risks faced by online users are also increasingly anonymous and recent, with 20% of Indian respondents reporting an online risk experienced in the past week, and 47% saying that the risk they experienced came from strangers online.

“It’s heartening to see our next generation take the lead in driving positive interactions online, and to witness digital citizens come together to uplift online communities during the pandemic,” added Keshav Dhakad. “Nonetheless, threats such as hate speech, together with other uncivil behaviours, continue to pervade society, requiring us all to take positive action.”

Moving into the new year, India’s top wishes for the next decade were for better safety (65%), respect (51%), civility (41%), freedom (35%) and well-being (25%).

Responding to build a safer internet

Within India and APAC, Microsoft works with governments, academics, civil society, and other stakeholders to share best practices on digital safety, help inform policy and regulatory debates, and advocate for a respectful, healthy online environment.

To foster a better and safer internet, Microsoft also champions the Digital Civility Challenge, which outlines four principles that online users can commit to, namely:

  1. Living the “golden rule” – To act with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treat everyone online with dignity and respect.
  2. Respecting differences – To appreciate cultural differences and honor diverse perspectives, engaging thoughtfully and avoiding name calling and personal attacks
  3. Pausing before replying – To pause and think before responding and not post or send anything that could hurt someone else, damage someone’s reputation, or threaten safety
  4. Standing up for yourself and others – To tell someone when feeling unsafe, offering support to those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, and report activity that threatens safety