#TECH: Surge in online incivility during pandemic

THE outpouring of solidarity that the world experienced in the spring of 2020 in the midst of early lockdowns is old news. According to a Microsoft study, online incivilities were on the rise between 2020 and 2021. At least that’s the perception shared by the 11,000 participants from 22 countries in this study.

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, what impact has Covid-19 had on online aggression? This is what Microsoft wanted to find out through a survey. Out of the 22 countries studied, only respondents from one, Colombia, reported having the impression of a more positive attitude on the networks. Of all the people surveyed, 82 per cent perceived a decline in online civility since the first measures against Covid-19 were implemented. The survey compares results from another, from June 2020, which showed rather encouraging results.

For example, the statement “People have been more encouraging to each other” dropped by 8 points, from 57 per cent last year to 49 per cent. It’s hard to argue with these numbers as there has been a greater sense of distrust on social networks since the pandemic began. The percentage of those agreeing with the statement “I see more people helping other people” has dropped to 56 per cent globally, compared to 67 per cent last year. Not surprisingly, the feeling of “a greater sense of community” has also dropped significantly, from 62 per cent to 50 per cent in July 2021.

Covid played a major role

Pandemic fatigue played a role in increasing the score in three of the five negative categories. According to the survey, people are more likely to vent their frustrations on networks (67 per cent, + 7 per cent) and intolerance in the community has increased slightly from 54 per cent in 2020 to 59 per cent in 2021. Personal attacks and derogatory comments seem to have increased, at least in the minds of the respondents.

The only good news? There has been a slight decrease in the spreading of false and misleading information, from 67 to 60 per cent. Of course, all this represents simply how web users are feeling, but the results do reflect a general feeling of loss of trust between different communities on social networks.

Microsoft’s “Civility, Safety Interaction Online” report surveyed 11,067 people aged 13 to 74 from 22 countries including Australia, Canada, India, Philippines, Singapore, US and UK. The full report will be available on Safer Internet Day, Feb 8, 2022.

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