A look at the state of misinformation about COVID-19 in Canada.

Let’s paint a brief portrait of the misinformation landscape in Canada.

9 out of 10 Canadians affected by misinformation

The infodemic, a social media virus

Far from being confined to Canada, these statistics illustrate a problem of global proportions, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has called the infodemic, or misinformation pandemic. The infodemic is “an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”. The problem is that misinformation spreads and reaches a wider audience much faster than true information. According to a 2018 study, this phenomenon is observed in all areas of information, from politics, urban legends, business, terrorism and war, to science and technology, entertainment and natural disasters. Such a rapid spread is partly due to one of the main mediums that allows its dissemination: social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 85% of misinformation was spread through social media, where 83% of Canadians, one of the most socially connected populations in the world, are active.

Canada puts #ScienceUpFirst

Many initiatives have been put in place to fight online misinformation, which can be found here, such as #ScienceUpFirst, a nationwide effort launched in late January 2021 by Senator Stan Kutcher of Nova Scotia, Professor Timothy Caulfield and their team. In partnership with the Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC), COVID-19 Resources Canada, the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, and funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, this independent scientific collective of researchers, experts and communicators across Canada is working to make available the latest science on various aspects of the pandemic, including vaccines, the virus itself and government responses. Their evidence-based, creative, and bilingual content can be found, and shared, using their #ScienceUpFirst hashtag, on several social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tiktok and Youtube, as well as on their website. Science Up First also presented a panel on innovative tools and strategies to debunk COVID-19 misinformation as part of the 13th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) centered around “Building Forward Better” in 2021, which can be found here.

©#ScienceUpFirst fights against misinformation

Distinguishing between facts and opinion, being aware of our own cognitive biases, carefully analyzing the content, where it was published and by who, and diversifying the sources are all great ways to break the cycle of misinformation, which affects all of us, on or offline.

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Science & Policy Exchange

Science & Policy Exchange

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A student-run non-profit that works to foster the student voice in science policy and evidence-informed policy-making in Canada. Based in Montreal.