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Internet

Microsoft research shows online social circles are getting riskier

C'mon people. Play nice.

students

Your online social circles might not be as friendly.

Microsoft

This isn't going to be a surprise: Your online social circles have become more toxic.

Nearly two thirds of online risks come from strangers or people you only know on the internet, according to preliminary results of a Microsoft survey about online safety. Risks include bullying, unwanted contact, unwelcome sexual images and messages, scams, fake news, fraud and other similar behaviors, the software giant said in a blog post explaining the results. 

By comparison, 28 percent, of online risks come from family and friends, the survey found.  

The results, which will be completed for international Safer Internet Day on Feb. 5, underscore what has already become painfully clear: The internet can be a dangerous and frightening place. Microsoft's prescriptions for handling online interactions is also pretty obvious, with suggestions such as treating people with kindness, respecting differences, pausing before you reply to someone and standing up for yourself and others.

Microsoft's researchers found that people who have met their abuser in real life were almost twice as likely to encounter online danger. People were also targeted based on their characteristics, gender, age and physical appearance, according to the blog.

The study was based on a survey of attitudes and perceptions of teens and adults in 22 countries about internet dangers and how online interactions affect their real lives, according to the blog.