Nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) agreed with that statement, with 53 per cent strongly agreeing.
The poll surveyed 1,000 Canadians between July 8 and 10, finding that most respondents (82 per cent) also felt that social media companies should be mandated to let police know about any messages or posts that spread hate and racism.
A September 2019 story says more than 23 million Canadians are on Facebook. An April 2019 survey commissioned by The Canadian Journalism Foundation found that social media — such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — is a top news source, alongside news sites, for 52 per cent of Canadians — but social media is also the least trusted source, at 32 per cent.
“What we’re finding is that in the wake of George Floyd and all of the discussions we’ve been having around Black Lives Matter, racism and hate in general, the vast majority of Canadians say that they support social media companies starting to curb discussions or expressions of hate and racism on their social media platforms,” said Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos.
“In other words, Canadians want social media companies to clamp down and to stop the spread of racism on their platforms.”
In June, in the wake of global protests against anti-Black racism, several groups pushed for large companies to pause their Facebook advertising during the month of July in a bid to pressure the social media company to act on hate speech and the spread of misinformation online.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority recently said 41 per cent of respondents in a March 2020 survey of 2,000 adult internet users in Canada identified Facebook as the most toxic site they use.
Facebook’s vice-president of global marketing has said hate speech has “no place” on the platform and that Facebook has “more work to do.”
“We are grateful for the candid feedback from our advertising partners and the Global Alliance for Responsible Media and are committed to taking swift action across four key focus areas identified by GARM,” Carolyn Everson said in a July 17 blog post.
The Ipsos poll found eight in 10 respondents (82 per cent) back companies that have cut their advertising from social media companies until they do more to prevent racism and hate online.
“Money speaks,” Simpson said.
“If social media companies find their advertising revenue is down, I think we’ll find that they’re moving quickly to take action.”
Taxation and regulation
Those surveyed by Ipsos also want more taxation and regulation of social media companies. The Ipsos poll found 81 per cent agreed social media companies should be taxed in Canada. Those aged 55 and over were especially in support of this, at 87 per cent.
Close to 80 per cent agreed social media companies should be regulated more heavily in Canada, with 28 per cent strongly agreeing. Eighty-five per cent of those aged 55 and over were in favour of this statement.
“If social media companies don’t take the initiative and start to do some of these things themselves, there is strong support among the Canadian population to have the government step in and start to regulate social media companies more heavily,” Simpson said.
Creating new regulations for social media platforms is the responsibility of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, whose mandate letter from last year indicates the following as an expectation for the current term:
“Create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties. This should include other online harms such as radicalization, incitement to violence, exploitation of children, or creation or distribution of terrorist propaganda.”
Global News sent questions to the office of the Department of Canadian Heritage, asking where the initiative around social media regulations currently stands, but did not hear back by time of publication.
Simpson said social media companies exist in a “bit of a grey area” in Canada when it comes to taxes.
“Most believe that social media companies should, in fact, be taxed in Canada like any other company that is doing business within the countries, whether it’s adding sales tax to the products and services that they’re selling or taxing profits that are earned in Canada, even if corporate head offices are outside of our borders,” he said.
“Ultimately Canadians just want social media companies to be taxed much in the same way that every other company operates in Canada is taxed.”
Freedom of expression
What stood out to Simpson was the divergence among age groups when it came to the role of freedom of speech.
Around a third of those surveyed (34 per cent) agreed freedom of speech meant people should be able to post whatever they desire on social media platforms, and that companies can’t stop them from doing so.
Support was strongest among Canadians aged 35 or under, at 45 per cent.
“Younger Canadians are by far the most likely to believe that freedom of expression should be protected and that social media companies don’t actually have a right to essentially censor or shut them down, based on what they’re saying,” Simpson said.
“That said, a majority believe that social media companies should be shutting down those accounts of people who are spreading racism and hate.”
There are demographic differences in the data, he added.
“Women are much more likely to believe that racist and messages of hate should be taken down on social media sites and investigated by the police,” Simpson said.
METHODOLOGY: This Ipsos poll was conducted between July 8 and July 10, 2020. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians from the Ipsos I-Say panel was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census information. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would be had all Canadian adults been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.