With the next Canadian federal election fast approaching, there is a legitimate concern about foreign interference in the democratic process. There is already a significant issue with this in the United States, and a new survey from Simon Fraser University shows that foreign interference in the Canadian election, particularly through social media, is something that Canadians are afraid of.

The survey, conducted by SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, found that 71 percent of Canadians think that social media puts an increased risk of foreign interference in the Canadian election. Similarly, 70 percent of Canadians think that social media also allows the manipulation of information by politicians.

The same study conducted by SFU also found that Canadians trust politicians less than ever, and that this is also contributing to the risk of misinformation being spread through social media. "The fact that Canadians feel alienated from their elected representatives makes us that more vulnerable to online manipulation,” Shauna Sylvester, executive director at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, said in a release.

However, Canada is taking steps to limit foreign interference before the election. According to Politico, Canada has done more than the United States in preventing the spread of misinformation before its own election. This includes new transparency rules on political ads and full disclosure from security agencies to the public about foreign threats.

Ben Scott, a former Hilary Clinton official who tracks disinformation campaigns, told Politico, "Pound for pound, Canada is way ahead of the U.S. in terms of policy development on these issues."

Still, Canadians think the government could go even further in limiting the risk of foreign interference, with 44 percent saying there should be regulations on social media companies, rather than allowing them to self-regulate. Additionally, 90 percent of Canadians said they would rather have their privacy protected than receive any sort of free online service.

Even though the fear of foreign interference is so closely tied with social media, a majority of Canadians still think social media is beneficial to democracy. Social media, according to 61 percent of Canadians in the study, allows people who would not normally be heard to have a voice in Canadian politics. 

Disclaimer: Cover photos used for illustrative purposes only.


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