New Leger poll shows vast majority of Canadians believe Facebook is harmful

A new online survey conducted by Leger finds that the vast majority of Canadians have a negative opinion of Facebook.

Asking people on the streets if they have a Facebook account, it seems like everyone does.

“Yeah I do,” said Keith Muffly.

“Yeah I do, yup,” said Sandra Chen.

Ask those same people their opinions on the social media platform and you’ll hear similar views as well.

“It’s like any tool,” said Muffly. “If you use it properly or with the best intentions it can be good, but I think the way it’s used for a lot of things now, it’s probably not as great.”

“I think it’s a negative for society,” said Chen.

The results of Leger’s poll match those perspectives.

Eighty-seven per cent of Canadians believe Facebook can be harmful to children and teenagers who use it. The same number also believe Facebook contributes to misinformation and the sharing of fake news.

Seventy-eight percent believe Facebook amplifies hate speech and gives radicalized individuals a platform, but 77 per cent say Facebook allows them to stay connected with loved ones.

That’s keeping many of those users logged-on, even though they are conflicted.

“They’ve got people by the heartstrings because of the ways in which they are able to stay in touch with family who might be in other provinces, states, other countries,” said Janni Aragon, adjunct assistant professor of political science at the University of Victoria.

“Yet they also understand that misinformation is a serious problem.”

The survey was conducted on the heels of a former employee and whistleblower coming forward in the U.S. and testifying in a Senate hearing. She said that Facebook is aware of the negative impacts of its platforms, but that the social media giant puts profits before people’s well-being.

The survey also shows that 58 per cent of Canadians think that the Facebook conglomerate – which includes Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram – should be either regulated by the government or broken up to ensure healthy competition.

Aragon believes one of those two options could be coming.

“I just don’t see us moving forward with Instagram suddenly having new owners,” said Aragon. “If anything, what we might see is more oversight.”

With all the recent bad press and revelations about Facebook’s impact on people’s lives, many won’t commit to ridding themselves of the app forever.

“I don’t use it all the time,” said Muffly. “I go through certain periods (where) you just stop using it.”

“I don’t have it active during the winter time,” said Chen. “I only have it active in the summer, which is when I want the intel and the information, otherwise I deactivate it.”