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Nine out of 10 Canadians have seen COVID-19 misinformation online: Statistics Canada

Last Updated Feb 2, 2021 at 7:36 pm EDT

WINNIPEG (CityNews) –  A new survey released by Statistics Canada shows that nearly all Canadians have come across COVID-19 misinformation online since the start of the pandemic.

Over half of Canadians have shared that information without ever knowing if the source behind it was accurate.

RELATED: Debunking COVID-19 myths 

The survey published Tuesday shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has come with what they are calling an ‘infodemic’, an overabundance of information, some true and some false.

“So that makes it very difficult for people to find facts and reliable sources,” Nicole Minnema, Analysis Project Manager with Statistics Canada, told CityNews.

“The untrue part of that is what we classify as misinformation which is false or inaccurate information which sometimes is intended to deliberately deceive.”

The survey found 96 per cent of Canadians who used the internet to find COVID-19 information discovered what they considered misleading or false facts.

Only 37 per cent of people reported checking the accuracy of information often, while six per cent say they never checked.

The most common reason is that they trust the source of the information, but 11 per cent of people said they wouldn’t know how to fact check the information even if they wanted to.

“I can understand that that would add another whole level of anxiety if you are looking at incoming information from different sources and you are not sure what to do or how to fact check that,” Cynthia Carr, Epidemiologist and Health Policy Expert, EPI Research Inc. said.

MORE COVERAGE: Scientists fight misinformation 

Carr added that developing fact-checking skills should start early in life with kids in school, but said that adults could benefit from some continuing education on to topic as well.

The survey found Canadians 55 years and older were more likely than those between the ages of 15 to 54 to share COVID-19 information without validating its accuracy before re-tweeting or reposting it.

“People who are older and kind of used to trusting things because they are published it’s a different perspective than the learning curve of younger people who have grown up with social media and seen the evolution of social media and understand anybody can post anything,” Carr said.

“We did ask in the survey how often they saw the suspicious information as well and one-quarter said that they saw suspicious information multiple times a day,” said Minnema.