More than half of young people see racist content about immigrants online, survey finds

OTTAWA — More than half of Canadians under the age of 35 encounter racist or harmful remarks about immigrants on the internet, according to a new survey.

OTTAWA — More than half of Canadians under the age of 35 encounter racist or harmful remarks about immigrants on the internet, according to a new survey.

Forty-two percent of all respondents to the Leger and Association for Canadian Studies online survey said they had seen or heard racist content about immigrants in cyberspace.

Almost half of people aged 18 to 34 said they had encountered racist remarks about black people online, and the same proportion had heard such remarks about indigenous people.

About two in five in the same age group said they had seen this type of content about Asian Canadians.

The case of a white gunman accused of massacring 10 black people in a racist attack at a Buffalo, NY supermarket last weekend has highlighted the role of social media in promoting hate.

The online poll of 1,697 Canadians during the week of April 25 cannot be assigned a margin of error, as online polls are not considered random samples.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the indication that young people are more likely to see this type of content is not surprising.

“A lot more young people are exposed to these things because they’re a lot more active and engaged on social media,” he said.

About 10% of respondents said they often see racist remarks online about different racial groups.

“I don’t think you can argue that one in 10 isn’t that high, because that’s actually a significant number of people who see this type of rant on social media on a daily basis,” Jedwab said.

Non-white respondents were more likely than their white counterparts to say they had encountered racist remarks online.

About three in five non-white respondents said they had encountered racist remarks about immigrants, compared to about two in five white respondents.

Jedwab said this level of exposure to racist content should be concerning in light of the recent Buffalo shooting.

The US Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.

Regular exposure to racist and hateful content online can desensitize people, potentially allowing a fringe phenomenon to become mainstream, Jedwab said.

When asked what they do when they come across this type of content, young people said they don’t do anything “because there’s too much and they don’t know where to start. to deal with it,” he added.

The federal government has proposed legislation to crack down on hate speech and abuse by blocking certain websites and forcing platforms to quickly remove content.

Critics said this approach could restrict the rights of marginalized groups by causing their messages to be misinterpreted as harmful.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 16, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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