Half of Canadians get fake news through private messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, according to a new report from Ryerson University.
The report found that 46 percent of respondents say they received private messages that they suspect are false, and 39 percent say they received a message that they believed was true but later found out that it was false.
Interestingly, the report found that more people are relying on private messages for news. Twenty-one percent of respondents said this applies to them, which is up from 11 percent in 2019.
Further, “those who believe in COVID-19 conspiracy theories are significantly more likely to regularly receive news through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.”
A majority of respondents noted that they have about the same level of trust in news that they receive through messaging apps as they do in news from websites, TV or social media.
The report calls for potential policy and technical approaches for the federal government to mitigate the spread of misinformation through private messaging apps.
The approaches include requiring transparency from online platforms to better understand online harms through private messaging. The report also suggests investing in research related to misinformation.
Lastly, it suggests making investments in policy-informed digital literacy efforts that build resilience to misinformation through private messaging platforms.
“The federal government should join other international jurisdictions in regulating greater transparency into how online private messaging apps can manifest in public harms,” said Sam Andrey, the director of policy and research at the Ryerson Leadership Lab, in a statement.
Results for the report were compiled via an online survey of 2,500 residents over the age of 16 between March 17th and 22nd.