People in Singapore had fewer negative online experiences, such as unwanted sexual contact, last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This helped the country jump four places to No. 4 in an annual study of how digitally civil societies are.

It follows a general trend for 32 territories globally, according to the study by American tech giant Microsoft released last Wednesday.

The Netherlands was tops in online civility, followed by Britain and the United States. In No. 5 spot was Taiwan, which was newly added to the study.

The study, called the Digital Civility Index, polled 16,000 teens and adults globally from April to May last year, including 500 people online in Singapore.

Each territory was rated on a scale of zero to 100, with a lower score indicating a lower exposure to online risks and a higher perceived level of online civility.

Singapore’s score was 59 per cent last year, an improvement over 2019’s 63 per cent. The global score of 67 per cent last year improved from 70 per cent in 2019.

People in Singapore reported a sharp fall in online sexual risks experienced, from 30 per cent in 2019 to 15 per cent last year. Such risks include getting unwanted sexually explicit messages and images, online sexual advances and receiving unwelcome sexual teasing, jokes or flirting online or electronically.

There was also a drop in online risks to one’s reputation, from 18 per cent in 2019 to 13 per cent last year. These risks include getting doxxed and having one’s personal and professional reputation tarred online.

Two other major online risks measured, defined as being intrusive and behavioural in nature, remained unchanged at 52 per cent and 35 per cent respectively for Singapore.

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Intrusive online risks include being contacted online without permission or consent, receiving hate speech and getting hoaxes, scams and fraudulent content.

Some examples of behavioural online risks are being treated meanly online, getting trolled, being cyber bullied and getting harassed online.

In Singapore, 19 per cent of respondents said online civility was better during the Covid-19 pandemic, which some attributed to a greater sense of community and how people came together more to deal with the crisis.

On the flip side, 31 per cent said online civility was worse during the outbreak because more false and misleading information was spread and people vented their frustrations online.

The top three online risks for Singapore were unwanted contact with people; getting hoaxes, scams and fraudulent content; and being treated meanly.

Still, the pandemic has “brought the best out of many ordinary people”, said Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement.

He noted that there were many positive ground-up initiatives last year, such as the Sure Anot campaign by Nanyang Technological University students to help senior citizens combat fake news.

Dr Wan advised people to be mindful, considerate and kind online. They should not post, share or forward anything without pausing first to ask if it is true, fair, positive, helpful, offensive to others and whether it will contribute to a harmonious relationship, he said.

“The golden rule applies here: Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you,” he said.



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