TORONTO, July 11, 2022– Canadians are being exposed to pro-Kremlin propaganda. Slightly over half of Canadians (51%) reported encountering at least one pro-Kremlin claim about the Russia-Ukraine war on social media, according to new research from the Social Media Lab at the Ted Rogers School of Management.
In recent years, Russia has deployed bots, trolls and hackers across social media and the internet, as part of Russia’s goal to shape their public perception on the world stage. These tactics are in an effort to curate a more favorable environment for their agenda in Ukraine, as well as other areas of geopolitical interests.
The report, authored by Anatoliy Gruzd (Canada Research Chair), Philip Mai, Felipe Bonow Soares and Alyssa Saiphoo, from the Social Media Lab shows that the most prevalent claim, encountered by 35% of Canadians, was “Ukrainian nationalism is a neo-Nazi movement”. The report also shows that Canadians who hold right-leaning views are more likely to believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda overall as compared to Canadians who hold mixed or left-leaning views. Furthermore, Canadians who believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda are more likely to rely on social media for news about the war than those who do not believe.
“The research provides evidence that the Kremlin’s disinformation is reaching more Canadians than one would expect,” said Gruzd. “Left unchallenged, state-sponsored information operations can stoke societal tensions and could even undermine democracy itself.”
“The perils of pro-Kremlin propaganda are real, and we should not underestimate its potential to shape public perception in Canada,” said Mai. “The aim of an information operation is not necessarily to make everyone believe. It is often sufficient to sow doubt and confusion, as well as to delay or derail consensus amongst one’s adversaries, their allies, and bystanders.”
For more information about the research or to speak to the report’s authors, please contact Philip Mai via [email protected]
• About half of Canadians (51%) reported encountering at least one pro-Kremlin claim about the Russia Ukraine war on social media. The most prevalent claim, encountered by 35% of Canadians, was “Ukrainian nationalism is a neo-Nazi movement…”. – see Section 2.1
• Nearly half of Canadians (49%) believe to some extent that “Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has surrounded Russia with military bases and broken their promise to not offer NATO membership to former USSR republics, like Ukraine”. – see Section 2.2
• Left-leaning Canadians are consistently less likely to believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda overall as compared to Canadians who hold mixed or right-leaning views. – see Section 2.3
• Those who believe in pro-Kremlin propaganda are more likely to turn to social media as a news source about the war than those who do not believe. – see Section 2.4
• When faced with what they think is misinformation about the RussiaUkraine war on social media, more Canadians (47%) indicated they would likely consult other sources to verify information about the war than to take any other remedial action (e.g., mute, unfollow, block, report). – see Section 2.5
• Most Canadians trust the Canadian (66%) and Ukrainian (64%) governments as well as mainstream media (66%) for providing accurate news about the Russia-Ukraine war. – see Section 1.1
• Most Canadians reported that they prefer to get news about the RussiaUkraine war from television (68%). Only 35% prefer social media as a source of news about the RussiaUkraine war. – see Section 1.2
• Twitter is the most popular platform to follow news about the RussiaUkraine war among its users (53%), closely followed by TikTok (51%). – see Section 1.3
The Social Media Lab is an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Toronto Metropolitan University. The lab studies how social media is changing the ways in which people and organizations communicate, disseminate information, conduct business and form communities, and how these changes impact society. The broad aim of the lab’s various research initiatives is to advance the public’s understanding of the benefits and pitfalls of social media adoption.