Online fraud, hate speech, discrimination and other divisive online risks are on the rise globally, according to results of a new Microsoft study. We’re releasing these findings in conjunction with World Kindness Day in an effort to turn that tide and encourage safer, more empathetic and tolerant online interactions among all people.
Some 31% of respondents in 32 countries say they’ve been exposed to hoaxes, scams and fraud online, up two percentage points from last year, and up three percentage points since the fraud risk was first included in this study in 2017. Meanwhile, one in five respondents (20%) say they’ve been the target of hate speech online, and 15% say they’ve experienced discrimination. These latter two risks are up four and five percentage points, respectively, since the survey began in 2016. All three risks are at their highest levels on record for this research.
Strangers and people whom respondents say they know online only continue to be the primary sources of digital risk – a theme that has prevailed since 2016. In fact, anonymous bullying-type behaviors jumped in this latest poll. Among those respondents who said they had been subjected to bullying, harassment or mean and cruel treatment online – 33%, 47% and 37%, respectively – said those behaviors were exhibited by strangers. Still, risks from those identified as “friends” have been inching steadily higher, as well. This year, 22% of respondents said risks were perpetrated by friends, compared to 13% four years ago when 14 countries were included in the research.
The findings are from Microsoft’s latest research into aspects of digital civility – encouraging safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions. The study, Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2020, surveyed teens ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 about their exposure to 212 different online risks. This latest research builds on similar studies undertaken each year since 2016. Previous years’ projects polled the same demographics in 14, 22, 23, and 25 countries, respectively. In total, 16,051 individuals participated in this latest installment, and we’ve polled more than 58,000 people over the last five years. Complete results will be made available in conjunction with international Safer Internet Day on February 9.