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Misinformation in Canada: Research and Policy Options

Misinformation refers to false or misleading information. Disinformation, a subcategory of misinformation, is false information spread with intent to deceive. Both mis- and disinformation are ongoing problems that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Evidence for Democracy completed a research project to characterize the research landscape in Canada and to provide options for addressing misinformation.

This report outlines the results of the research project, which includes:

  • A review of existing academic literature to understand if Canada-specific misinformation research indicates that Canada has a unique context that influences how misinformation spreads and impacts its population.
  • An investigation of how individuals and organizations can help address misinformation, including an exploratory survey of academics at Canadian institutions to understand their perceptions around misinformation and identify their training needs.
  • A summary of policy options recommended or used in other jurisdictions that could be applied to reduce the presence of misinformation in Canada and enhance the public’s resilience to its effects.

Main Conclusions

The literature review identified an emerging body of research on misinformation in the Canadian context. The body of research indicated that misinformation and disinformation may threaten the health and safety of the Canadian public, as well as the legitimacy of democratic processes in Canada. Additionally, there is evidence that the differing political, media, legal, and cultural landscapes in Canada, at the national, provincial, and community levels, shape the spread and impact of misinformation and disinformation. However, there needs to be substantially more research conducted to fully understand the complex nature of the impacts of these issues.

Further study, and potentially a strategic research strategy to identify the gaps in current knowledge and areas of focus, are needed to properly inform policy decisions in the Canadian context. We suggest collaborative initiatives focused specifically on misinformation in the Canadian context and continued funding opportunities as potential paths to a sustained body of research.

This research also demonstrated that individuals, organizations, and governments all have a role to play in addressing misinformation. By examining both the literature and the results of our survey, we have updated our training tools for effectively addressing misinformation, which can be used by individuals or at a larger scale by organizations.

As for government efforts, current policy approaches by the Canadian government include criminalizing aspects of the creation and dissemination of disinformation, specifically during election periods and with a focus on foreign interference. Additionally, government efforts have included funding for national and community-based literacy and research initiatives.

Employed together, a multifaceted policy approach, as well as actions from individuals and organizations, can reduce the spread and influence of misinformation on public discourse and democratic processes.

Read the full report

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