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'Toxic' online posts having negative impact on federal election voters

A voter casts a ballot in the 2011 federal election in Toronto on May 2, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

If you’ve been online checking Twitter or other social media throughout the federal election campaign you may notice a lot of nasty posts about politicians and political parties.

One group says this type of online behaviour is having a negative impact on voter engagement.

Sabreena Delhon with the Samara Centre for Democracy tells 680 NEWS that a bot they created analyzed over half a million tweets about the federal election in the first couple weeks of the campaign. The centre found that more than a quarter of the analyzed tweets could be labelled as ‘toxic.’

“We feel the situation is getting worse,” says Delhon.

According to the analysis, 7 per cent of the tweets were labelled as ‘severely toxic,’ which the group says are tweets that use profane language and are threatening. Another 20 per cent were labelled as ‘toxic,’ which means they were rude or hostile in nature.


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The findings suggest the Liberal Party faces the most toxicity on social media and the NDP face the least.


Parties in order of which have received most to least online toxicity so far:

  1. The Liberal Party
  2. The Conservative Party
  3. The Green Party
  4. The Bloc Quebecois
  5. The New Democratic Party

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau was found to be the candidate who receives the highest share of toxic tweets. According to analysis, 24 per cent, or nearly 19,000 of the tweets received by Trudeau were classified as toxic.

The analysis found that women incumbents in the Liberal Party faced the most toxicity online. They receive over five times more abuse on social media then men in the same party. Diverse candidates were also more likely to face online abuse.

While 27 per cent of tweets may not sound like a lot, the group says they do have an impact on voter engagement. Other studies have shown many people are afraid to engage in political discussion online due to possible backlash.

“People feel scared to participate in political conversations online,” says Delhon. “There is a majority of Canadians who feel that way.”

The analysis from the Samara Centre did not look at who is responsible for the tweets but Delhon says all parties have an opportunity step up and try to stamp out the toxicity we see online.

The data analyzed came before the anti-vaccination protests that disrupted weekend campaign events for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.