Increasing Civility Online

October 14, 2016

Dealing with civility online and curbing harassment is very similar to dealing with crime on our streets. The solution is not to tell people to get off the streets, but to take a multi-prong approach to making the streets safer and educating citizens in street smarts. Likewise, our “digital streets” have many factors that increase or decrease their level of safety and vibrancy. Together we can improve civility online while educating, empowering and engaging digital citizens.

Using the 3 E’s of digital citizenship (Educate, Empower, Engage), we can look at ways to increase civility online


There are some incredible organizations that have popped up in recent years to try and build a better web. CiviliNation is one of them; they offer free resources with a collection of videos, helpful links, and doing a CiviliNation Harassment Barometer detailing the current online environment. CiviliNation has a mission “to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies.”


We are not mere users of technology, but digital citizens that play an active role in curbing abusive behavior. As the CiviliNation Harassment Barometer will point out over time, the state of online civility is constantly in flux--just like our streets. We should be empowered that WE are the web, and we are a stakeholder in its future. How, for example, did New York City’s homicide rate drop 85 percent from 1990 to last year? Just like a city, the online civility is constantly in flux and often tied to a combination of policies, improving methods of reporting, and increasing a community-wide effort to curbing wrongful behavior.

What we are starting to seeing is initiatives very similar in nature to Neighborhood Watch programs. You may be alone in your house, but your house is in a neighborhood. Likewise, you may be viewing your online behavior as a solitary pursuit, but really you are part of a larger community that can look after one another and assist in improving the overall tone.


In order to improve online civility, we need to do a much better job of engaging all of the different groups in order to understand each group’s concerns and ideas. One area that could dramatically improve over the coming years is the coordination between parents, educators, and administrators in regards to social media and tech use. These groups are often unclear as to what the other is doing, or should be doing. As a parent, you should be encouraged to understand your school’s social media and tech policies, and take advantage of programs and events your school may offer.

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Written by

David Ryan Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is a pioneering tech ethicist, Responsible Tech advocate, and expert on ways to improve social media and our information ecosystem, along with increasing the ethical considerations regarding emerging technologies. He specializes in uniting a diverse range of stakeholders in order to tackle complex tech & society issues, cultivating conducive environments for forward progress.

David is the founder of All Tech Is Human, an organization committed to connecting and expanding the Responsible Tech ecosystem; making it more diverse, multidisciplinary, and aligned with the public interest. As the leader of All Tech Is Human, he has created a unique grassroots-meets-traditional-power-structure model that is uniting thousands of individuals across the globe to co-create a better tech future.

In March 2020, David became a member of TikTok’s Content Advisory Council, providing expertise around the delicate and difficult challenges facing social media platforms to expand expression while limiting harm. He appears in the upcoming documentary, TikTok, Boom. David is an expert advisor for the World Economic Forum's Global Coalition for Digital Safety.

An international speaker with rare insight into building a better tech future, David has been on stage at Harvard Business School, Princeton University, Notre Dame, The School of the New York Times, TechChill (Latvia), The Next Web (Netherlands), FutureNow (Slovakia), Infoshare (Poland), the Future Health Summit (Ireland), NATO, and many more. His commentary has appeared on CBS This Morning, TODAY show, BBC World News, MSNBC, Fast Company, The Guardian, SiriusXM, Associated Press, LA Times, USA Today, and more.

David is a monthly expert contributor to Built In (writing about the Responsible Tech movement), and an advisory board member for the Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness (TAM) program, and a participant in multiple working groups focused on improving tech and aligning it with our values.The main throughline throughout David’s work is that we need a collaborative, multi-stakeholder, and multidisciplinary approach in order to build a tech future that is aligned with the public interest.