In wake of Donald Trump victory, Microsoft thinks we need a ‘digital reset’

11 Nov 2016

Finger on reset button. Image: ampol sonthong/Shutterstock

The aftermath of the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has resulted in quite the polarisation of opinion online, but now ahead of World Kindness Day, Microsoft has called on a charter for ‘digital civility’.

Coming as a surprise to most pundits and the average American, critics of the Republican nominee have pointed to a sharp increase in the number of hateful comments in public against people of colour and the Muslim faith, but also in the digital space.

This has resulted in many people taking to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to offer their dismay at such treatment, but also responding in kind with anger and hateful comments towards those who voted for Trump.

Future Human

With tensions running rather high, Microsoft has decided – in its own way – to try and intervene, with a new charter that focuses on bringing a level of digital civility to the social media space.

In a post written by Microsoft’s chief online safety officer Jacqueline Beauchere, the company recently embarked on a study of youths aged between 13-17 and adults aged between 18-74 in 14 countries.

What became abundantly clear from the findings was that both adults (31pc) and teens (29pc) said they became less trusting of others in the real world after a negative interaction online.

When these reactions remain online, adults were found to outpace teens in being quite distrustful of people, equating to 42pc of adults over 37pc of youths.

Need of a digital reset

For teens, the online abuse was found to result in social and academic harm.

While this research was undertaken prior to the election of Donald Trump, Beauchere has said that it has taken the decision to highlight this preliminary data as a result of the election, but also to raise awareness of the upcoming World Kindness Day taking place on 13 November.

As part of an informal charter, Microsoft advises people to participate in a “digital reset” by engaging in some digital civility.

“These include treating others with respect, interacting in constructive ways and disagreeing without name-calling or personal attacks,” Beauchere said.

“[The] risks of not doing so? Inappropriate content and conduct that pollute[s] online environments to the detriment of all digital citizens.”

This follows accusations aimed at Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg for proliferating ‘fake news’ that contributed to the spread of misinformation leading to the election of Trump.

“I do think there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason someone could have voted the way they did is [that] they saw some fake news,” Zuckerberg said at the recent Techonomy conference.

“If you believe that, then I don’t think you have internalised the message the Trump supporters are trying to send in this election.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic