Canadians were self-censoring social media posts even before Cambridge Analytica scandal: Study

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June 13 2018

50% of online Canadian adults choose to censor social media posts to avoid companies using data for advertising, says new report

TORONTO — Even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal, social media users in Canada were attempting to protect their privacy online through self-censorship, according to a new report published by the Social Media Lab at the Ted Rogers School of Management. Self-censorship on social media can include actions such as choosing not to share a comment or link online.

The study found that 50% of online Canadian adults choose to self-censor their social media posts because they believe a company may use their data for advertising. Canadians were also concerned about social media sites potentially selling their data, as 47% of respondents said they self-censor to avoid social media giants selling their information.

As part of the study, respondents were asked how comfortable they would be if a third party accessed information that they posted on social media such as photos, location, friend lists, communication networks and activity level in an online group.

“Privacy is not an ‘I’ problem but an ‘us’ problem. Individuals should not have to resort to self-censorship to protect their privacy on social media,” said Anatoliy Gruzd, Director of Research at Toronto Metropolitan’s Social Media Lab. “Our results show that Canadians do care about privacy and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s comment to the contrary; privacy is still an accepted social norm.”

The survey was conducted before the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, from June 1 – July 15, 2017, and is the second report in a series of studies which analyze the state of social media in Canada.

Respondents also said they feel the most uncomfortable (66%) with marketers using their publicly available social media data, followed by political parties, financial institutions and governments with 65%.

The report was produced by the Social Media Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab at Ted Rogers School of Management, Toronto Metropolitan University. The lab studies how social media is changing the ways in which people communicate, share information, conduct business and how these changes are impacting our society. The study is co-authored by Anatoliy Gruzd, Jenna Jacobson, and Philip Mai at Toronto Metropolitan University and Elizabeth Dubois at the University of Ottawa.

Co-author and Canada Research Chair, Anatoliy Gruzd, is available for interviews on this report and other social media related topics.

For interview requests and other media inquiries, please contact:

Philip Mai
Director of Business and Communications
416-979-5000 ext. 3509
[email protected]

For more information, please visit the Social Media Lab website.