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People blame governments, social media for growing discomfort with the internet: poll

Last Updated Jun 11, 2019 at 12:46 pm PDT

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Who and what do you trust online? A new survey finds people are blaming their governments and social media for a growing discomfort with the internet — but few are actually doing anything to protect themselves.

“This year’s survey of global attitudes not only underscores the fragility of the internet, but also netizens’ growing discomfort with social media and the power these corporations wield over their daily lives,” Fen Osler Hampson with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) at Waterloo University, said in a release.

The CIGI-Ipsos 2019 Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust, shows most people blame social media for the erosion of confidence, with fewer than half of respondents saying they believe their government does enough to protect their online data and personal information.

The lowest confidence levels were witnessed here in North America, as well as the G-8 countries.

About 88 per cent of North Americans involved point to social media as the source of their distrust — that was the highest number in any region — including Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

So what are people doing about it? Instead of increasing security measures online, CIGI says they’re pulling back and just using the internet less.

“We also see that users aren’t utilizing tools like encryption that can help secure their communications,” Sally Wentworth, vice president of Global Policy Development for the Internet Society, said. “From keeping messages private to protecting critical infrastructure, encryption is an essential tool for digital security. It’s clear that there is more we can be doing as a community to make it easier for Internet users to secure their communications.”

The poll looked at 25,000 internet users in more than two dozen countries.

People around the world said they increasingly view their own governments as a threat to their privacy online, with the study finding “more people attributed their growing online privacy concerns to domestic governments (66%) — a majority in nearly every region surveyed — than to foreign governments (61%).”

Social media and ‘fake news’

A stunning 90 per cent of people polled in Canada said they’ve been duped into reading fake news.

When it’s broken down, 10 per cent said they’ve never been fooled, half said it happens, but rarely, a third claimed it does sometimes, and only five per cent admitted it’s a frequent problem.

In the lead up to the fall federal election, fake news has been a big concern for politicians. Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould says she’s glad there is a spotlight on this issue.

“That we’re talking about it, that people are checking their sources — it’s why we invested $7 million in digital media and civic literacy campaigns,” Gould said.

According to CIGI, Facebook was pinpointed as the most common source of fake news, with the majority of users saying they had personally seen fake news on the social media network. Facebook was followed by Twitter and then other social media networks when it came to sources of fake news.

Of those surveyed, about nine per cent of Facebook users said they closed their accounts because of fake news, while that number increased slightly for Twitter users, with 10 per cent of them saying they had done the same.

“The CIGI-Ipsos Survey provides us with compelling evidence to help make decisions, shape policy and channel resources to reduce the digital divide in a way that is safe and still creates opportunities for development,” Shamika N. Sirimanne, director of UNCTAD’s Division on Technology and Logistics, said. “We need more trust if the digital economy is to become a viable development tool for developing nations.”

The majority of internet users polled from Canada — 59 per cent — said they thought the U.S. is most responsible for “the disruptive effect of fake news in their own country,” with 57 per cent of users in the U.S. saying the same of their own country.