Online disinformation

A strong democracy relies on Canadians having access to diverse and reliable sources of news and information so that they can form opinions, hold governments and individuals to account and participate in public debate. In response to the increase in false, misleading and inflammatory disinformation published online and through social media, the Government of Canada has made it a priority to help equip citizens with the tools and skills needed to critically assess online information.

Digital Citizen Initiative

The Digital Citizen Initiative is a multi-component strategy that aims to support democracy and social cohesion in Canada by building citizen resilience against online disinformation and building partnerships to support a healthy information ecosystem.

The Digital Citizen Initiative also supports a community of Canadian researchers that promote a healthy information ecosystem, to help Canadians and the Government understand online disinformation and its impact on Canadian society, and in turn build an evidence-base to identify potential action and develop future policy-making.

Building Citizen Resilience

Plan to Protect Canada’s Democracy – Citizen-focused Activities

In 2019-20, as part of Canada’s approach to protecting its democracy, Canadian Heritage contributed $7 million over 9 months to 23 projects delivered by Canadian civil society stakeholders that strengthened citizens’ critical thinking about online disinformation, their ability to be more resilient against online disinformation, as well as their ability to get involved in democratic processes.

The DCI provided funding for civic, news, and digital media literacy, ranging from awareness sessions and workshops to the development of learning materials. These projects reached more than 12 million Canadians from coast to coast to coast including youth, seniors, minority communities, official languages minority communities, etc.

This initiative was delivered through the following programs:

A list of the funded activities, including recipients, funding amounts and project descriptions, is available in the backgrounder Helping citizens critically assess and become resilient against harmful online disinformation.

Special COVID-19 Calls

To enhance citizen preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Digital Citizen Contribution Program was provided with $3.5 million in funding to amplify the efforts of ten organizations supporting citizens to think critically about the health information they find online, to identify mis- and disinformation, and limit the impact of racist and/or misleading social media posts relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The details of this announcement are available in the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations page.

The first eight projects that received support can be found in the news release Supporting Canadians to Think Critically About Online Health Information.

The Digital Citizen Contribution Program was pleased to announce another call for proposals for projects aiming to counter disinformation relating to COVID-19. This call aimed to amplify the efforts of organizations supporting citizens to think critically about the health information they find online, to identify mis- and disinformation, and limit the impact of racist and/or misleading social media posts relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding provided time-limited financial assistance of up to $40,000 per project. The Special COVID-19 call for proposals closed July 31, 2020.

For more information on open calls for proposals, please see the Digital Citizen Contribution Program page.

Digital Citizen Research Program

The Digital Citizen Research Program focuses on helping Canadians understand online disinformation and its impact on Canadian society, and building the evidence base to identify possible actions and future policy-making in this space. This program compliments the multistakeholder International Engagement Strategy aiming to establish consensus and develop guiding principles for the diversity of content online in order to reinforce democratic and citizen resilience.

The Program has 3 components:

Canadian Heritage supports the Public Policy Forum’s Digital Democracy Project, which brings together academics, civil society, and policy professionals to support research and policy development on disinformation and online harms.

Current Open Call

The Digital Citizen Contribution Program (DCCP) is pleased to launch call for proposals to provide time-limited financial assistance (fiscal year 2021-22) for the following types of research projects:

  • projects that aim to understand the role of algorithms, artificial intelligence, and other system-level factors on mainstream and fringe online platforms as they pertain to the spread, uptake, and impacts of disinformation and related harms, including on user behaviour and content consumption, and their potential uses towards a diverse and healthy information ecosystem;
  • projects that aim to understand the domestic and transnational spread, evolution, and impacts of online disinformation and related harms through and on diaspora, Indigenous, and non-English primary language communities in Canada using a GBA+ lens, including impacts on societal outcomes; or
  • projects that aim to evaluate existing Canadian or international research and programming related to online disinformation and their effectiveness in furthering positive societal outcomes, such as citizen resilience, social cohesion, media literacy, and participation and trust in democratic processes.

The application deadline and details on how to apply can be found on the Digital Citizen Contribution Program page.

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