More than 20 projects are being launched to strengthen citizens’ critical thinking about disinformation and enhance their ability to get involved in democratic processes. A strong democracy relies on Canadians having access to diverse and reliable sources of news and information so that they can form opinions, hold governments and individuals to account, and participate in public conversations.
The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, has announced several citizen-focused activities that will build citizens’ critical thinking and preparedness against online disinformation, and other online harms. She made this announcement on behalf of the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism. This announcement is part of the Government of Canada’s plan to safeguard our democratic processes from threats of interference as we approach the 2019 General Election.
On January 30, Minister Gould announced funding of $7 million for citizen-focused activities under Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Initiative to support eligible organizations using four existing programs: the Canada History Fund, Youth Take Charge, Exchanges Canada and the Canada Periodical Fund. The Initiative promotes civic, news and digital media literacy through third-party educational activities and programming to help citizens become resilient against online harms.
Activities range from awareness sessions and workshops to the development of learning materials from experienced and expert organizations who work with Canadians of all ages and backgrounds, in both official languages, to foster digital media and civic awareness across the country.
Investing in these projects will help Canadians critically assess online information; understand how algorithms work and when they might impact a user’s online experience; recognize how and when malicious actors exploit online platforms; acquire skills to avoid being susceptible to online manipulation; and effectively engage in public debate and online discussions.
Canadian Heritage will also invest $19.4 million over four years in a new Digital Citizen Research Program to help Canadians understand online disinformation and its impact on Canadian society, and to build the evidence base that will be used to identify possible actions and future policy-making in this space. This investment will also enable Canada to take part in international multi-stakeholder engagement aimed at building consensus and developing guiding principles on diversity of content online to strengthen citizen resilience to online disinformation.
In making the announcement, Minister Gould stated: “Canada’s best defence against threats to democracy remains an engaged and informed public. By building their skills, Canadians can better understand online deceptive practices, recognize disinformation and be less susceptible to online manipulation. An informed and critical approach to online information by all Canadians will help safeguard our upcoming elections from those who would seek to interfere in our democracy.”