Most Canadians believe Facebook harms their mental health: survey

Most Canadians believe Facebook harms their mental health: survey
CHEK

A broad swath of Canadians has a sour view of Facebook, with half of respondents to a new poll saying it should be regulated or broken up as a “corporate image” crisis rocks the social media giant yet again.

Forty per cent of those who responded to an online survey by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they had a negative opinion of the company.

The vast majority also agreed that Facebook amplifies hate speech, helps spread fake news, damages individuals’ mental health and poses a risk to children and teenagers.

However, more than three in four believe the social network helps them stay connected to their loved ones, with just over 50 per cent saying it is key to sharing information and positive for free expression.

Conducted Oct. 8 to 10, the online poll surveyed 1,545 Canadians and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

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.

“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.”

Last week Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a United States Senate committee that the company’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the U.S., a claim supported by internal company research leaked to the Wall Street Journal.

The former executive’s testimony piles on more baggage to a corporation already staggering under the weight of hate-speech concerns, conspiracy theory proliferation and the Cambridge Analytica data-mining debacle of 2018.

“Facebook is starting to be an onion. The leaks were basically just one more layer,” Bourque said.

He highlighted the platform as a space where supporters of then-president Donald Trump called on citizens to storm the U.S. Capitol in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“A single event is never enough to destroy a company. But a series of events, then it becomes something, becomes like a snowball.”

Facebook Canada said in an emailed statement it continues 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’

Graham CoxGraham Cox
The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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