Distrust of the Internet is growing, and users say social media companies are largely to blame
By Jennifer Hughes
Given the emergence of deepfake technology and the spread of misinformation and outright lies online, it’s no wonder we’re becoming more and more suspicious of information we find on the Internet, especially when it comes to social media.
According to the results recent global study that polled more than 25,000 Internet users in North America, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, 25% said that they don’t trust the Internet. Of those, many cited cybercriminals (81%), social media (75%), foreign governments (66%), government in general (66%), and search engines (65%) as the causes of their decreasing trust.
This distrust is especially prevalent in Canada—89% of Canadians surveyed cited social media products such as Facebook and Twitter as a main reason for their mistrust, compared with 87% of North Americans and 86% of international Internet users. Meanwhile, 90% of Canadians said that they had fallen for misinformation or disinformation online at least once, while only 10% said that they had never made the mistake. Facebook was identified as the most common source of misleading news, with 9% of Facebook and 10% of Twitter users saying that they had closed their accounts because of false reports in the last year alone.
The study, which was done by Ipsos for the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, ON, in collaboration with the Internet Society and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, also found that more than half of Canadians say they are more worried about their privacy than they were a year ago.
False and misleading information is becoming an even bigger issue in Canada as the federal elections draw nearer. Though most of those surveyed agreed that governments and companies need to take a stand against social media, Canadians were more supportive of social media companies taking action than the government.
“What we’re seeing is very high levels of distrust, and it is going to empower governments to regulate them if they don’t take stronger measures themselves to clean up their act,” said CIGI director of global security and politics Fen Osler Hampson.