Vast Majority of Canadians Believe Facebook Harms Their Mental Health: Online Survey

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Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Posted on Wednesday, October 13, 2021 at 5:15 a.m. EDT

OTTAWA – A wide range of Canadians have a bitter view of Facebook, with half of respondents to new poll saying it should be regulated or dismantled as a ‘corporate image’ crisis shakes yet again the social media giant.

Forty percent of those who responded to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they had a negative opinion of the company.

The vast majority also agreed that Facebook amplifies hate speech, helps spread fake news, harms individual mental health, and poses a risk to children and teens.

However, more than three in four believe the social network helps them stay in touch with loved ones, with just over 50 percent saying it is essential for sharing information and positive for freedom of movement. ‘expression.

Conducted October 8-10, the online survey interviewed 1,545 Canadians and cannot be given a margin of error because Internet surveys are not considered random samples.

Leger executive vice president Christian Bourque says Canadians maintain a dependence on Facebook, but not a strong affection for it, as the platform faces intense public scrutiny over how its algorithms stoke inflammatory rhetoric and affect users’ self-esteem.

“There’s kind of a relationship I need you but I don’t love you,” Bourque said in an interview.

“Facebook really has a corporate image problem now that they will be facing.”

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told a U.S. Senate committee last week that the company’s products are harming children and fueling polarization in the United States, a claim supported by internal company research. disclosed to the Wall Street Journal.

The former executive’s testimony is piling up more baggage for a company already faltering under the weight of hate speech, the proliferation of conspiracy theory and the Cambridge Analytica data mining debacle in 2018.

“Facebook is starting to be an onion. The leaks were basically just one more layer, ”Bourque said.

He pointed out that the platform was a space where supporters of then-President Donald Trump called on citizens to storm the United States Capitol ahead of the Jan.6 insurgency.

“One event is never enough to destroy a business. But a series of events, then it becomes something, becomes like a snowball. “

Facebook Canada said in an emailed statement that it continues to make investments targeting disinformation and harmful content.

“Canadians come to Facebook to connect with loved ones, grow their businesses and share what matters to them,” the company wrote.

He also highlighted the platform’s ban of several Canadian hate organizations and a $ 500,000 partnership with the Center on Hate, Prejudice and Extremism at Ontario Tech University which aims to strengthen research on the spread. of these items online.

Claiming roughly 2.9 billion monthly active users, Facebook also owns the Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp mobile apps, each of which has at least 1.3 billion users.

When asked if the conglomerate should be dismantled “to ensure healthy competition” and regulate its interactions with users, more than a quarter of those polled said yes. Another 23% said it should only be regulated by the government.

“We agree that thoughtful Internet regulation is needed and we are ready to work with Canadian policymakers,” Facebook Canada said.

Only one in five respondents had a positive opinion of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, with almost half checking the negative box and a third uncertain.

About 87 percent of respondents said his company contributes to disinformation and can harm young people, which equates to a Canadian “consensus” that reflects a similar but slightly weaker US consensus, Bourque said.

In last month’s federal election, the Liberals pledged to introduce legislation within 100 days to combat hate speech online and content that incites violence.

The pledge comes after the Liberal minority government tabled a bill last November proposing to regulate Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, but which died in the Senate after the election was called.

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