Is there a place for civility in our digital future?

19 Dec 2017 16:15h - 17:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Mr Jim Prendergast, President, The Galway Strategy Group, opened the session by inviting the panellists to present a brief note on their research. Ms Clara Sommarin, Child Protection Specialist on Exploitation and Violence, UNICEF, observed that civility is about empowering children to use the Internet and mobile phones in a respectful way, thereby ensuring that they are not harming other children and are not harmed themselves.

Ms Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft, added that civility is, ‘interacting with respect, compassion, leading to empathy online. Civility is making sure all online interactions are respectful and compassionate among all individuals of all technical abilities and all ages.’ 

Mr Tommaso Wayne Bertolotti, Adjunct Professor of Cognitive Philosophy, University of Pavia, said that civility is about being able to live together, being compassionate together, and recognising and trusting each other as people would do in a regular city, where people live together and thrive together. Mr Nicholas Carlisle, Founder and CEO, No Bully, added to the discussion by defining civility as inclusivity. He further noted that bullying demonstrates a profound lack of compassion, and both inclusivity and compassion are central to the concept of digital civility.

Ms Sommarin then presented the report, ‘The State of the World’s Children’ and added that this looks at how technology has changed the lives of children and explores future challenges and opportunities. She noted that girls are slightly more upset and worried by the violence they experience online. She also pointed out the difference that exists based on gender, culture, and region in the way children perceive bullying and violence online.

Ms Beauchere presented the report that was released on International Safe Internet day and observed that there is overwhelming concern about online abuse, and the risks of being exposed to unwanted contact online. Concerns such as being treated meanly and being subjected to sexual messages put users at risk, and without a support mechanism.

Mr Carlisle observed that over the last few years there has been an increase in the number of people requesting help with respect to handling online bullying. He added that online abuse can have a devastating impact on the lives of children, and in some cases leave them with suicidal thoughts.

Mr Prendergast then invited the participants to interact and raised several questions about restoring civility online, and creating a safe and respectful Internet. The audience pitched in with suggestions on having a self-regulatory platform for tackling bullying, teaching kindness and empathy to children, and educating children about safer practices in using the Internet. 

Mr Carlisle provided information about the ‘Power of Zero’ campaign, that unites people based on a commitment to zero violence, zero abuse, and zero bullying, and invited people to collaborate in the campaign.

By Krishna Kumar Rajamannar