Microsoft has released its annual study, “Civility, Safety, and Interactions Online – 2020” along with findings from its 2020 Digital Civility Index (DCI).

According to the study, certain online risks for Indian users remain, especially hate speech. Hate speech has doubled from 2016 to 26 per cent. There has also been a 5 per cent increase in hoaxes, scams, and frauds from 2017 to 22 per cent, and 6 per cent increase in discrimination since 2016 to 16 per cent, as per the report.

However, overall India’s score in online civility has improved to 68, from that of 71 in 2019. With the DCI, a lower score indicates better online civility.

The score indicated that fewer people experienced negative online interactions or encountered online risks during the year. Though compared to much of Asia-Pacific (APAC), which had an overall score of 66, India is yet to catch up.

“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.

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When it comes to the improvement in India’s overall civility score, 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 per cent 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 per cent cited online civility as worse due to greater spread of false and misleading information and more personal attacks or negative comments,” as per the report.

The risks faced by online users are increasingly anonymous and recent. 20 per cent of Indian respondents reported that they experienced an online risk in the past week while 47 per cent said 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,” said Dhakad.

“Nonetheless, threats such as hate speech, together with other uncivil behaviours, continue to pervade society, requiring us all to take positive action,” he added.

Moving into the new year, the top wishes for the next decade moving Indian users were for better safety (65 per cent), respect (51 per cent), civility (41 per cent), freedom (35 per cent) and well-being (25 per cent).

The latest instalment of the DCI survey included responses from around 16,000 respondents in 32 geographies and was completed in April to May 2020. This year’s research included nine APAC geographies: Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Of those surveyed, 502 respondents were from India.

The tech giant is also working with governments, academics, civil society, and other stakeholders within India and APAC, to share best practices on digital safety, help inform policy and regulatory debates for a safer online environment, it said