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US and UK among the most civil nations online, Microsoft says

On Safer Internet Day, it advises following the Golden Rule.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
February 7, 2017
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Today is "Safer Internet Day," so Microsoft has released some stats showing relative safety and civility by nation. It turns out that people find each other pretty civil online in the US, as the nation placed third on Microsoft's "Digital Civility Index." It can't hold a candle to the UK, however, which has the nicest internet community by a comfortable margin. By contrast, the worst places to be online are South Africa, Mexico and Russia, nations that also happen to struggle with high violent crime rates in the real world.

To come up with the index, Microsoft conducted a study across 14 countries, asking teens and adults about four risks: behavioral, reputational, sexual and personal/intrusive. The top five mentioned were unwanted contact, mean treatment, trolling, unwanted sexts and online harassment. Two of three respondents fell victim to at least one of the 17 risks , and 78 percent said it happened to at least one friend or family member. 62 percent were unsure where to get help.

It may seem obvious, but the software giant recommends living by the Golden Rule (yep), respecting differences, pausing before replying and standing up for yourself and others. The latter is particularly important, says the Tyler Clementi Foundation behind the #endbullying campaign. "We could eradicate most cruelty, bullying and humiliation that occurs online if every bystander became an 'upstander,' " executive director Sean Kosofsky tells Microsoft. "We can interrupt harassment, report it and reach out to the affected person."

While saying it doesn't necessarily have the answer, Microsoft published best practices for civility in various industries to kickstart a larger conversation. "Our hope is that policymakers, companies and organizations will consider our suggestions and build on our initial efforts through fresh digital civility-related projects and programs," the company wrote. What it left unsaid, unfortunately, is that one of the biggest bullies online is now the President of the United States -- something that has already trickled down to real and online communities.

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