News, Social Media, and Misinformation Survey

[New Survey Report] Inoculating against an Infodemic: A Canada-wide COVID-19 News, Social Media, and Misinformation

This survey report was produced by the Social Media Lab (SocialMediaLab.ca) at Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. It is released as part of the COVID-19 Misinformation Portal (Covid19Misinfo.org), a rapid response project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Since the first COVID-19 lockdown order, social media has emerged as an indispensable lifeline for people to connect to friends, families, classmates, and co-workers. This increasing reliance on social media is not without its problems; social media is well-established as a vector in the spread of false narratives. To examine the “digital hygiene” practices of Canadians during this unprecedented health crisis, we asked 1,500 online Canadian adults (18+) about where they get news about COVID-19 from, how often they encounter misinformation on this topic, and what do they do about it.

“One of the primary goals of this Canada-wide survey was to understand what strategies social media users employ when seeing COVID-19 content that they think is false or misleading,” say Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai, co-authors of the report and co-directors of the Ryerson University Social Media Lab.


Highlights

  • Most Canadians say they trust the accuracy of COVID-19 news more from official information sources such as the public service and government ministries & departments than from political parties or even their friends and family.
  • More Canadians prefer to get their COVID-19 news from television (60%) than from social media (22%).
  • Facebook and Reddit are the two most popular sites for COVID-19 news among their users, but newcomer TikTok also made a surprise showing as a site Canadians are turning to for news about the pandemic.
  • COVID-19 misinformation was reported present on all popular social media sites and messaging apps in Canada.
  • 68% of Canadians reported encountering COVID-19 misinformation on at least one of the social media sites/apps they use.
  • 80% of Facebook users, along with around 70% of Reddit, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube users reported seeing misinformation on these sites “sometimes” or more frequently.
  • Among those who reported encountering COVID-19 misinformation on social media sites/apps (1,019 out of 1,500), the majority (76%) indicated they would consult other sources to verify information.
  • And while most social media companies rely on their users to flag problems to some extent, surprisingly 56% of respondents in this cohort said they had never reported an account/post that shared misinformation to the social media site.


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