Microsoft: You're being less toxic online but bullying, harassment still rife

Fewer people experience unwanted contact online, but most other bad behaviors remain unchanged.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

People are behaving in a slightly more civil way online, according to Microsoft. 

The world's rise in civil behavior online is reflected in Microsoft's 2018 Digital Civility Index (DCI) by a lower score of 66 percent, two points below last year's figure. That shift is due solely to a slight decline in people experiencing repeat unwanted contact. 

Despite the improvement, the world DCI score, Microsoft's Digital Civility Report 2018, paints a fairly grim picture of the negative behaviors that many people experience online. 

The other top four of 21 risks measured in the DCI remained unchanged, including bullying, receiving unwanted sexual images or messages, and hoaxes. 

Unwanted contact remains the top risk alongside bullying, both of which are experienced by 40 percent of people. Unwanted contact is also more commonly experienced by female respondents and teens. 

Just over a third of people received unwanted sexual imagery or messages, while just under a third of people were exposed to hoaxes and bogus information. 

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

And while Microsoft finds that 62 percent of online risks come from strangers or people known online only, it became more common in 2018 to experience uncivil behavior from friends and family, which increased 11 points year over year to 28 percent. 

Also, people who'd meet the perpetrator offline, such as a work colleague or acquaintance, are nearly twice as likely to experience a risk, according to Microsoft.  

The report also finds fewer people defended others who are experiencing bullying and harassment online, and that fewer people said they treated other people with dignity and respect. 

Meanwhile, those who experienced a risk became less trusting of others online and offline, reporting lost sleep, and a greater reluctance to participate on social media

Microsoft finds that the most civil country on the internet is the UK, followed by the US, which has shown the biggest improvement in online civility. Germany, France, and Belgium also registered significant falls in their DCI scores.

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