The Microsoft Digital Civility Challenge

| By TMA World

Microsoft has challenged people around the world to embrace “digital civility”; in other words, treat each other with dignity and respect online.  It’s not a new topic, but one of ongoing importance.

Research in 14 countries relating to the attitudes and perceptions of teens (ages 13-17) and adults (ages 18-74) about online safety and risk, prompted Microsoft to create a Digital Civility Index (DCI).  Seventeen online risks were divided into four categories: 

  • Behavioral: Treated meanly, trolling (1), online harassment, cyberbullying, swatting (2)
  • Reputational: Doxing (3), damage to personal reputation, damage to work reputation
  • Sexual: Receiving unwanted sexts, solicitations, sending unwanted sexts, sextortion, “revenge porn”
  • Personal/Intrusive: Unwanted contact, hate speech, discrimination. Terrorism recruiting

The top five risks experienced were:

  1. Unwanted contact
  2. Being treated meanly
  3. Trolling
  4. Receiving unwanted sexts
  5. Online harassment

Two out of three respondents said they had fallen victim to at least one risk; that percentage rose to 78% when participants also accounted for the online experiences of their friends and family members.

50% reported being “extremely or very” worried about life online.

62% said they did not know or were unsure where to get help.

The lower the DCI percentage score, the higher the level of digital civility.  As you can see on the chart below, countries that scored the lowest index readings (highest levels of perceived digital civility) were the UK, Australia, and the US:



United Kingdom
United States
South Africa


The worldwide average score is 65% although it should be noted that only 14 countries are currently in the Index. 

The impact of digital incivility is not restricted to online relationships.  Thirty percent of respondents said that they have become less trusting of people offline. 

Microsoft would like to see digital civility based on empathy become a universal message and common sense behavior.  To this end, they have set a DCI challenge by asking people to commit to four ideals, and by sharing their pledge using the hashtags #Challenge4Civility and #Im4DigitalCivility.

The ideals they are seeking to encourage are:

  • Live the Golden Rule: Act with empathy, compassion, dignity, respect, and kindness in every interaction.
  • Respect differences: Honor diverse perspectives, and when disagreements surface engage thoughtfully and avoid name calling and personal attacks.
  • Pause before replying: Take time to consider if what you post or send could hurt someone, damage their reputation, or threaten their safety.
  • Stand up for myself and others: Report activity that threatens anyone’s safety, and preserve evidence of inappropriate behavior.

The only amendment I might make to the above is to add the Platinum Rule.  The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not always the best guidance.  Sometimes – particularly when we are working across cultures – the Platinum Rule of “do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

  1. Trolling: an internet behavior meant to intentionally anger or frustrate someone to provoke a response
  2. Swatting: tricking emergency services (e.g. a SWAT team) into deploying unnecessarily
  3. Doxing: researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information usually with an intent to extort, coerce, or shame someone. 

If you have enjoyed this article you might also be interested to read our recent blog, 8 Ways to Improve Civility at Work

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