Despite improving its tally on online civility in the Asia-Pacific region in 2020, India has seen a significant increase in hate speech, hoaxes, scams, frauds and discrimination for online users in the last three to four years, a Microsoft study revealed on Tuesday.
For online users in India, hate speech doubled from 2016 to 26 per cent in 2020, along with a 5 per cent increase in hoaxes, scams and frauds since 2017 to 22 per cent, and a 6 per cent increase in discrimination since 2016 to 16 per cent.
Results from Microsoft's metric showed that India's score in online civility had improved to 68 in 2020, from of 71 in 2019, indicating that fewer people are experiencing negative online interactions or encountering online risks.
India, however, did not fare well compared to much of Asia-Pacific (APAC), which had an overall score of 66, according to the findings from the 2020 Digital Civility Index (DCI).
"Our societies are relying on and embracing digital technologies more than ever before and a safer internet will improve experiences and shape the well-being of our communities," said Keshav Dhakad, Group Head and General Counsel, Microsoft India.
"On the Safer Internet Day on February 9, we are reminded that governments, organisations and individuals all have a part to play in helping make the internet a better place for work and play," he said in a statement.
Teenagers (aged 13-16) in India were found to be positive drivers for improvement in DCI performance, and scored 67 in the measure of online civility, as opposed to adults at 69.
Additionally, 38 per cent of respondents in India said online civility was better during the pandemic, attributed to witnessing more people help others and a greater sense of community.
Nearly 22 per cent cited online civility as worse due to a greater spread of false and misleading information and more personal attacks or negative comments.
"The risks faced by online users are also increasingly anonymous and recent, with 20 per cent of Indian respondents reporting an online risk experienced in the past week, and 47 per cent saying that the risk they experienced came from strangers online," the findings showed.
Moving into the new year, India's top wishes for the next decade were for better safety (65 per cent), respect (51 per cent), civility (41 per cent), freedom (35 per cent) and well-being (25 per cent).
"It's heartening to see our next generation take the lead in driving positive interactions online, and to witness digital citizens come together to uplift online communities during the pandemic," Dhakad said.