Microsoft digital civility study reveals online abuse comes from people’s own social circles

The study was conducted in 23 countries, up from 14 countries in 2016. The study gauges the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) about the state of civility online.

In conjunction with international Safer Internet Day  Microsoft has conducted a Digital Civility Index study named  “Civility, Safety and Interactions Online – 2017,” which measured the perceptions of teens and adults about the online risks they face and how their interactions affect their lives. Some very intriguing findings have come to light.

The study was conducted in 23 countries, up from 14 countries in 2016. The study gauges the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) about the state of civility online. Microsoft measured respondents’ lifetime exposure to 20 different online risks – three more than the previous year – across four categories: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive.

According to the  latest study, people’s digital interactions and responses to online risks appear to be improving around the world – though perhaps surprisingly, many of those who have been targeted for abuse online say their perpetrators came from their immediate families and social circles.

Indeed, nearly two in three respondents (61 percent) said they had some familiarity with their online abusers. More than a third (36 percent) said they knew the perpetrator personally: 17 percent responded that the perpetrator was a friend or a family member, while nearly one in five (19 percent) said the perpetrator was an acquaintance.

One-quarter of those surveyed said the offender was someone they knew only online, and 37 percent said their online risk exposure came from a stranger. Family and friends accounted for a high percentage of perpetrators among those who said they were bullied online (41 percent) or discriminated against (36 percent).

For the second year in a row, unwanted contact surfaced as the leading online risk that people experienced (among the 20 evaluated) — with 41 percent of respondents reporting being contacted online by someone they did not wish to hear from. This is down 2 percentage points from 43 percent the previous year. The next closest-ranked risk was hoaxes, fraud, and scams as a collective with 27 percent of respondents reporting exposure during their lifetime. This is the first year this risk was included in this survey.

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