New survey reveals majority of Canadians believe Facebook is bad for mental health

A new survey released by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that most Canadians believe Facebook negatively impacts individuals' mental health.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A new survey released by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found that most Canadians believe Facebook negatively impacts individuals' mental health. The social media giant that owns multiple apps should be regulated by the government or broken up.

A large portion of Canadian respondents held a negative view about Facebook, with 72 percent of respondents stating Facebook negatively impacts individuals' mental health. Eighty-seven percent said the social media giant contributes to misinformation and sharing fake news.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents also said that Facebook amplifies hate speech and gives radicalized individuals a platform to speak, but over half said it positively affects their freedom of expression. Another 87 percent said the platform could be harmful to children and teens, while 77 percent of respondents said Facebook allowed them to contact loved ones.

Most respondents said that Facebook, which owns Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram, should be regulated, broken up, or both. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said it should be both regulated by the government and broken up, while 23 percent said the government should just regulate the social media giant. Only 8 percent said the government should break it up.

"Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque says Canadians maintain a dependence on Facebook but not a strong affection for it, as the platform confronts intense public scrutiny over how its algorithms fan inflammatory rhetoric and affect users' self-esteem," wrote CP24.

"There's sort of an I-need-you-but-I-don't-love-you relationship," Bourque said in an interview. "Facebook really has a corporate image problem now that they will need to face."

Survey takers were also questioned about the recent testimony of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen before a US Senate committee, who revealed how the platform harms children and fuels polarization between people in the US.

"Recently, a former Facebook employee leaked some confidential Facebook documents to the media and testified in a senate hearing that Facebook is aware of the negative impacts of its platforms, including the threat to democracy and the negative impacts on the mental health of young people who use their platforms. Do you believe these claims made by the whistleblower are true?" the survey asked.

Sixty-four percent of Canadian respondents said they believe the whistleblower's claims, with 10 percent saying they don't believe them. An additional 26 percent saying they "haven't heard of this event."

Facebook Canada said in an emailed statement to CP24 that it is continuing to make investments that target misinformation and harmful content.

"Canadians come to Facebook to connect with their loved ones, grow their businesses and share what matters to them," the company wrote.

"It also highlighted the platform's banning of several Canadian hate organizations and a $500,000 partnership with Ontario Tech University's Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism that aims to bolster research on the spread of those elements online," wrote CP24.

The statement also touched upon the vast majority of Canadians who said the company should be broken up or regulated. Facebook Canada said, "We agree that thoughtful regulations for the internet are needed and stand ready to work with Canadian policy-makers."


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