According to a 2019 Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Historica Canada, 30% of Canadians report that they get most of their news through social media. With four in ten reporting that they have read or shared information through social media that later proved to be false, the spread of fake news can be curbed at least in part by remembering to evaluate news before you share it.
Don't be afraid to counter those posting fake news on social media either. Whether they're sharing an article having only read the headline or genuinely believe the claims made by an article they've retweeted, you can, and should, politely point out the misinformation that your friends and family are engaging with. While you may not change the opinion of someone whose mind is already made up on a particular issue, it can be helpful for others to see the misinformation debunked and help break the chain.
The Canadian government has also taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation. While there is no specific law preventing the spread of fake news unless it pertains to hate speech or defamation, the Canada Elections Act was amended in 2019 to prevent the publication of false statements that might affect election results. In 2019 the Canadian government also enacted Canada's Digital Charter, which contains ten principles for building safer online spaces. There has also been a recent financial commitment to digital, news, and civic literacy programming.
Another problem with misinformation and social media is that it can be more difficult to distinguish between what is fact and what is opinion. The same 2019 Ipsos poll found that only 12% of people surveyed could correctly identify 100% of six factual and subjective statements. With traditional media such as newspapers or television, pieces are often clearly labelled or distinguished as reported news or the author’s opinion, however with online news this distinction might be harder to make. Remember that just because an article isn’t labelled as opinion doesn’t mean it is factual news.
Filter bubbles refer to the algorithmic editing of the online content that appears, or doesn’t appear, on your social media feeds and in your online search results. It is based on everything from where you are located to what you click on, and has a profound effect on the news and media that you consume. Learn more about filter bubbles below.