Government of Canada funds projects addressing the growing problem of online mis/disinformation
GATINEAU, January 11, 2023
The Digital Citizen Contribution Program supports the priorities of the Digital Citizen Initiative by providing time-limited financial assistance for research and citizen-focused activities. The Program aims to support democracy and social cohesion in Canada by enhancing and/or supporting efforts to counter online disinformation and other online harms and threats.
In total, the following 16 research projects received more than $1.2 million in funding.
Alliance Jeunesse Famille de l’Alberta
Black Francophone Youth and Digital Media: A Study of the Effects and Impacts of Racism
The purpose of the project is to identify how disinformation in complex media messages that are subtly racist and/or incorrect and perpetuate stereotypes and racist attitudes affect Black Francophone Edmontonians. It will then develop an action plan to assist members of this community to recognize these messages, interpret them in a critical manner, and deal with the psychological effects of the messages in positive ways. The project will look at all sources of media in the French language. It will also examine the messages in and effect of English media. Media examined will include print media, broadcast media, online media, and social media.
Mods, Memes, Minigames: Play and Games as Alternative Media Sources for Disinformation
The purpose of this project is to: 1) detail current activity by the Canadian alt-right in amateur game creation and wider game culture, particularly in the areas of memes, minigames and game mods, in order to create typologies and frameworks for mapping the evolution and spread of such content; 2) raise awareness among the wider public about alt-right activity in game culture; and 3) build research capacity in the area of disinformation and games among Canadian and other scholars and practitioners.
Coopérative nationale de l’information indépendante, COOP de Solidarité
Combating Misinformation Within Families: What If Young People Could Become Information Ambassadors?
The objectives of this project are to: 1) document and understand the impact of family environments on the level of misinformation among young Francophone Canadians; 2) determine the possible existence of a pollinating effect of the fight against misinformation among young people within their family environments; 3) provide public authorities with the tools they need to set up programs and activities to fight misinformation targeting families; and 4) take action, informed by this first phase of research, by developing initiatives for young people and tools for information professionals and teachers dealing with misinformation within their pupils’ families, from a non-polarizing perspective, and evaluate their scope and effectiveness.
Family Services of Peel
Peel Community Anti-Black Racism Social Action Response
The purpose of the project is to document the existing expertise of individuals and community organizations regarding misinformation as it relates to racism in the media, particularly on social media, and to encourage and identify innovative responses to build awareness and change attitudes. The project has two main objectives: 1) to understand misinformation as it relates to racism and understand how this misinformation affects individuals' perspectives and treatment of racialized people; and 2) to conceptualize ways to combat misinformation related to racism. The project is focused on the Region of Peel (Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon), one of the most racially diverse regions in Canada.
Force Leadership Africain
The New Landscape of Anti-Black Racism: Combating Online Misinformation and the Spread of Racial Hatred in Canada
This project was developed in the context of the increase in hate crimes against Black people in Canada. It aims to explain on the one hand how non-media sources of misinformation contribute to this increase, and on the other hand to provide tools for policy makers and Canadians to better understand the role of misinformation in the spread of anti-Black racism in order to combat it more effectively.
Islamic Family and Social Services Association
Resonate: Tackling Misinformation in Albertan Ethnocultural Communities
This is a research and community action project, created to tackle misinformation, disinformation, and hate spreading among Alberta's most isolated community members. The project involves researching the key determinants of misinformation online, as well as using local media dissemination to reach marginalized community members. The research is being conducted in partnership with MacEwan University and Norquest College, which both support a full-time dedicated researcher on this project. The project will conduct research on current misinformation and online safety challenges among Alberta’s ethnocultural communities, which will result in a publication of a report on the impact of misinformation on ethnocultural communities.
Reporting Platforms: Young Canadians Evaluate Efforts to Counter Disinformation
MediaSmarts will design and facilitate a series of interactive focus groups with youth aged 13 to 29 from across Canada to evaluate the efficacy of efforts by platforms to counter disinformation and other online harms. Experiences and insights collected via focus groups will explain: 1) where and how Canadian youth encounter disinformation online and how they typically react to this content; 2) how aware youth are of reporting mechanisms or other approaches that online platforms currently take to counter disinformation and other online harms; 3) whether youth think that online platforms are doing enough to counter these harms; and 4) what changes or additional efforts youth want to see from platforms moving forward.
McGill University – The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning
Prevalence and Types of Online Harms Encountered by Canadians in Day-to-Day Use of Digital Media
The overall purpose of the project is to build an evidence-based risk assessment model to hold platform companies accountable for the range of harms and risks users experience on their services by auditing user safety through “digital avatars”—simulations of the experience of Canadians in their day-to-day usage of digital media. The project aims to widely disseminate findings on the extent to which harmful content is encountered online and how accountability for mitigating against these risks can be enhanced.
Ontario Digital Literacy and Access Network
Possible Practices to Protect Canadian Organizations from Queerphobic Cyber-violence
This project aims to understand how Canadian non-profit organizations and charities that service 2SLGBTQ+ communities experience queerphobic cyber-violence and how to mitigate incidences of cyber-harassment. Organizations that serve 2SLGBTQ+ people become targets of online homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia, which can intersect with racism, classism, sexism, and ableism. ODLAN’s objective is to capture how non-profit organizations and charities that service 2SLGBTQ+ communities become targets of online harassment by conducting and analyzing in-depth interviews.
The Students Commission of Canada
Conversations for Change and Community
The objective of this project is to engage youth in research on how they process and share online disinformation about those whom they perceive as others and explore techniques to support the strengthening of social cohesion in Canada. The scope focuses on Canadian youths’ perspectives on the online disinformation they see and share. This participatory action research project facilitates discussions between youth with opposing views, with the objective of understanding. Their recent research for Public Safety Canada found young former violent extremists were motivated to exit violent movements when they had positive connections outside the group.
University of British Columbia – Global Reporting Centre
Shooting the Messenger: Credibility Attacks on Journalists
This project aims to investigate and help counteract online campaigns to discredit and harass journalists and locate these activities in broader efforts to misinform publics. This project has a strong focus on Canadian journalists but is also investigating how the targeting of journalists and media institutions in Canada compares to other countries. Doing so will enable UBC to identify transnational efforts targeting Canada and illuminate global trends affecting Canada's media sphere and democracy.
University of British Columbia – Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions
Platform Governance in Canada
This project applies a framework for understanding and implementing global platform governance developed by Heidi Tworek, Taylor Owen, and Nanjala Nyabola in 2021–22 to the Canadian context. The aim is to take the tested global framework on platform governance and apply it to the Canadian context. This systemic approach is vital to address the range of problems caused by disinformation and to identify the full suite of possible solutions. UBC will apply these four domains to the Canadian context by bringing together a group of leading Canadian scholars. Each scholar will write an initial brief, to be presented at an in-person workshop which will also include a hybrid public event to discuss platform governance in Canada.
Université de Moncton
Post-Secondary Students and Climate Misinformation: Attitudes and Relationships to New Digital Media
This research project aims to examine the relationship between young adults and environmental information and issues, in terms of their perceptions and practices. More specifically, this research is being conducted among young Francophone post-secondary students in the Atlantic provinces. It is situated at the intersection of two major contemporary concerns: information issues (dissemination of misinformation, critical thinking training, etc.) and environmental issues (climate change, biodiversity, etc.), which constitutes its originality and strength in terms of research and social impact.
Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson University) – Audience Lab
A Multimodal Analysis of Misinformation Strategies on TikTok
This project proposes a multimodal study of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and vaccine promotion on the TikTok platform. There are two objectives to the study: 1) the development of a misinformation model that triangulates aural, visual, and textual elements for a deeper analysis of persuasion on the TiKTok platform, and 2) the proto-model will be developed so that it can be used as a foundation for media literacy pedagogy.
Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson University) – Social Media Lab
To Share or Not to Share: A Randomized Controlled Study of Misinformation Warning Labels on Social Media
The aim of this project is to test independently whether social media platforms’ soft moderation interventions are effective at reducing the spread of misinformation. This project specifically examines and tests the effectiveness of Facebook’s soft moderation interventions as it relates to the Russia-Ukraine war. By focusing on misinformation about the war, this project puts a spotlight on a current and ongoing issue of concern and will be able to build on their ongoing research (ConflictMisinfo.org) studying the nature and scale of online misinformation and disinformation about the Russia-Ukraine war.
University of Waterloo
Digital Diasporas, Chat Apps, and Social Cohesion: The Behavioural and Psychological Determinants of Disinformation Spread, Engagement, and Impact
The purpose of the project is to: 1) outline the conditions and micro-level behavioural determinants of digital disinformation spread, which include the motivations, interests, and incentives to believe, share, and engage with disinformation or to correct and counter disinformation; 2) identify the psychological factors behind the spread and consumption of digital disinformation; and 3) examine how digital disinformation differentially impacts the information ecosystem for these communities, how digital disinformation may exacerbate feelings of social divisiveness, polarization, stigmatization and discrimination for marginalized and racialized communities, and how it may shape individual and collective political identities, ideologies, and belonging.
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