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

TORONTO, May 11, 2020 —  FacebookRedditTwitterTiKTok and other social media platforms have recently announced that they are stepping up their efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on their platforms but despite these efforts, 68% of Canadians reported encountering COVID-19 misinformation on at least one of the social media sites/apps they use.

This finding comes from a new, census-balanced, survey report “Inoculating against an Infodemic: A Canada-Wide COVID-19 News, Social Media, and Misinformation Survey” by the Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. The survey is released as part of the COVID-19 Misinformation Portal (covid19misinfo.org), a rapid response project funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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.

Other Highlights From the Survey

  • 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.

About the Survey

Data was collected using Dynata, a market research firm, for panel recruitment. The survey was open from April 9 to April 17, 2020 and was hosted on Qualtrics, an online survey platform. We received a total of 1,500 completed responses, excluding incomplete responses and those completed under 5 minutes. The survey was made available to online Canadian adults in English. The term “online Canadian adults” refers to Internet users aged 18 and older. To increase the representativeness of the data, we used proportional quota sampling to recruit respondents, with quotas based on age, gender, and geographical region to match the distributions in the 2019 Statistics Canada population estimates.

Rounding and Margin of Error

All percentages are rounded to the nearest 1%. A margin of error is not reported since an online survey is not a random probability sample.

About the Social Media Lab

The Social Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The lab studies how social media is changing the ways in which people communicate, share information, conduct business and form communities, and how these changes impact society. The broad aims of the lab’s research initiatives are to provide decision makers with additional knowledge and insights into the behaviours and relationships of online network members, and understand how these interpersonal connections influence our choices and actions.


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