The internet is apparently kinder now than it has been for years

If you’ve been feeling like the internet is a nice place at the moment, then you aren’t alone, at least according to a Microsoft study that claims after a tumultuous few years, things are looking up for netizens. 

The company’s study asked teens aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 in 22 countries about their exposure to online risks across four categories (reputational, behavioral, sexual and personal/intrusive); their experience of life online; and about interactions related to these things. 

From there, Microsoft generates a so-called DCI score, where lower is better (like golf), from 100 to zero. Over time, the score can be used as a proxy to track the overall health of civility on the internet. 

In 2021, the DCI score was 65%, an improvement of 2% over 2020 and the best score since 2016, despite some worries that everyone being forced inside has degraded the online discourse. Interestingly, Microsoft also breaks out country-level data

Being online is better for some 

Unsurprisingly, being online is better for some than others – and you can probably imagine who. 

According to the study, those who identified as male experienced less negative outcomes than those who identified as female. 

Across the categories “worry” and “pain”, the differences were stark: 67% of females reporting being worried, compared to 58% of males, while 39% of females reported feeling pain, compared to 31% of males. 

As Microsoft points out, this kind of gender-based analysis is essential for creating safe online spaces for everyone, something that clearly needs work even in 2022. 

“This year’s DCI improvement was led by teen boys and male respondents, who generally reported being less exposed to online risks than female respondents,” says Microsoft. “For instance, teen boys saw a 5% decrease in trolling and unwanted sexting, and a 3% decrease in hate speech compared to last year’s results.” 

“Teen girls and women respondents, on the other hand, reported being both more exposed to online risks and feeling more severe consequences as a result,” the report continues. “Females experienced almost 60% of all risks reported in 2021, an all-time high, and were also more likely to have experienced consequences, worry or pain due to being treated uncivilly.”

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