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A safer Internet should be everyone’s goal

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Microsoft study shows 63% of respondents here have encountered at least one form of online risk in their lifetime

The digital world that we live in today is filled with risks.

Each day, we are bombarded with unsolicited online content ranging from e-mails sent by unknown third-parties to the circulation of fake news and unwanted sexual messages, which represent just a fraction of the common scenarios that Singaporeans face daily.

The latest Microsoft Digital Civility Study was conducted with 11,000 respondents in 22 countries, including 500 adults (aged 18 to 74) and teenagers (aged 13 to 17) in Singapore.

It shed new light on consumers' lifetime exposure to a wide range of online risks. These included their exposure to unwanted contact; hoaxes, scams and fraud; behavioural risks and sexual risks.

The study showed that 63 per cent of Singapore respondents have encountered at least one form of online risk in their lifetime, placing the Republic 10th out of 22 countries for the overall rate of exposure to online risks. The UK, US and France topped the list as the most digitally civil countries in the world.

The study revealed that while Singaporeans encountered online risks at a lower rate than the global average of 66 per cent, they stood out for receiving offensive or obscene content, encountering fake news, and being called offensive names at a higher rate than the global average, with 68 per cent, 61 per cent and 54 per cent of the respondents encountering these online situations respectively.

The study uncovered that 38 per cent of Singapore respondents became less trusting of other people online.

Also 30 per cent said their life became more stressful, and 27 per cent became less trusting of other people offline as a result of encountering these online risks.

Among the various consumer groups, 51 per cent of millennials and teenagers reported moderate to severe pain following their online risk encounters, which can include widespread emotional, psychological and physical pain.

But 55 per cent of Singapore teens would reach out for help following an online risk encounter, much lower than the global average of 70 per cent who would take such an action.

Have Singaporeans, especially our young, become so accustomed to uncivil online behaviour that they don't act against them?

As we continue to explore the reasons behind the trends, we need to be keenly aware that building a safer Internet environment is everyone's responsibility. All of us, as online citizens, must quit being bystanders and take action against uncivil online behaviour to help foster a better and safer Internet.

This message was also highlighted in this year's Better Internet Campaign by the Media Literacy Council.

Themed "Together for a Better Internet", the year-long campaign provides practical tips to help Singaporeans to be kinder, smarter and safer online, and equips consumers of all ages with the knowledge to create and share online content responsibly.

Of course, only by personally committing to being kinder, more compassionate and more respectful will we be able to collectively build a better and safer Internet for everyone.

The writer is chief technology officer, Microsoft Singapore.