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TikTok is Canada’s least trusted social media site: study


TikTok is experiencing the fastest growth rate among Canadians, but is also the least trusted social media platform in the country, a new report says.

The short video app has nearly tripled its reach since 2019, with 29 percent of respondents using the app, up from 10 percent, a study released Thursday by the Metropolitan University of Toronto found.

However, the level of trust in social media platforms has declined significantly since 2021, with only one in 10 Canadians having a high level of trust in such applications. Trust in TikTok was particularly low, falling to the point where the app replaced Facebook as the least trusted social media organization in Canada.

Sam Andrey, director of policy and research at the Leadership Lab at Metropolitan University of Toronto, attributed faith in the apps to the succession of scandals. At Facebook, there was the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data fallout and allegations that the company had a role in electing Donald Trump as US president and promoting Brexit.

Meanwhile, Twitter has had its own controversy with Elon Musk, who took over the app last year, quickly following policy issues and angering advertisers and users.

“The controversy about TikTok and Chinese parent ownership and where our data goes … has been going around for a while, so I think it’s breaking into the Canadian consciousness,” Andrey added.

His research is based on an online survey of 2,022 Canadians over the age of 16 that was conducted in October, months before the federal and provincial governments banned TikTok from its employees’ phones as tensions with China escalated.

Concerns about the app stem mainly from the fact that its parent company, ByteDance, is based in China, where laws allow the country to demand access to user data.

The research also comes as social media apps face growing calls for regulation from the tech giants, and a number of countries are revising privacy and anti-hate laws that weigh heavily on the platforms.

But apps that are subject to regulation are still widely used in Canada.

About 91 percent of those surveyed used YouTube, while 82 percent used Facebook, 77 percent used Facebook Messenger, and 55 percent used Instagram.

Respondents gave the lowest level of trust to TikTok, Facebook and Twitter when asked to rate their belief in various organizations in the public’s best interest.

Trust in the three tech companies was far lower than corporate and media brands such as Canadian Tire, CBC/Radio-Canada, CTV, Tim Hortons, the Globe and Mail, Loblaws, Bell Canada and Shell, as well as international giants including Google. , Wikipedia, Microsoft and Apple.

Only one in 10 respondents said they have a lot of trust in Facebook, TikTok or Twitter.

About 50 percent of respondents had low trust in TikTok, compared to 36 percent in 2021, while only seven percent had high trust in the app, compared to 16 percent in the same period.

According to the survey, 42 percent had low trust in Facebook, up from 37 percent last year. About 40 percent had low trust in Twitter, up from 31 percent in 2021.

The study also analyzed hate speech and harassment.

Canadians were relatively frequently exposed to hate speech online, although the proportion reporting seeing hate speech online at least a few times a month fell from 48 percent in 2019 to 41 percent in 2022.

“There’s a sense that things are getting worse, partly because of the public discourse around it … but content moderation has gotten better,” Andrey said.

“(Companies) are more likely to come down on things, label things than, say, 2018.”

However, two-thirds of all respondents said that governments should require online platforms to be responsible and reduce the amount of harmful content on their platforms.

More than 80 per cent of Canadians support requiring platforms to quickly remove reported illegal content, block automated or bot accounts, flag information as false and provide users with tools to verify online content.

Andrey acknowledged that balancing rights and freedoms is a “difficult thing,” but doubts many people are in favor of further government pressure after the Freedom Column shut down large parts of Ottawa last year.

“Perhaps … it served as a reminder of the threats that exist here to allow the spread of conspiratorial misinformation and hate,” he said.

“So I think that event was a real Canadian phenomenon that maybe sharpened some attitudes in Canadian politics.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 9, 2023.

Meta, which is owned by Facebook, funds a limited number of scholarships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.

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