Canadians show strong support for social media ad boycotts

A large majority of Canadians say social media companies should do more to clean up hate content on their platforms and think marketers are right to withhold spending over the issue, according to new research by Ipsos conducted for Global News.

The survey comes amid a widespread advertising boycott of Facebook arising from growing calls to fight systemic racism and reform policing following the death of George Floyd.

While Facebook has been the boycott’s focal point, other big brands have announced across-the-board reductions in social ad spending as a way to jumpstart meaningful improvements from the platforms.

Fully 88% of respondents in the Ipsos survey said that social media companies should do more to remove messages that spread hate and racism, while 82% support reducing their ad spend until the social media companies do more.

“If social media companies find their advertising revenue is down, I think we’ll find that they’re moving quickly to take action,” Ipsos vice-president Sean Simpson told Global. While the cost of the ad boycott is unknown, Facebook’s stock has risen throughout the month of July after a dip in late June, when the boycott began gaining momentum.

Most (83%) of the Ipsos respondents said that social media companies should be required to inform police about hate content, while one-third (34%) said freedom of speech means people can post whatever they want and the social media companies are not obligated to report it.

While woman were slightly more likely to say that social media must do more to clean up toxic content, 40% of men said social media content is a freedom of speech issue, compared to just 29% of women.

Ipsos also asked about the role of government in regulation and taxation of social media companies. Here, too, most respondents want to see change—with 81% calling for social media companies to be taxed in Canada, and 77% saying the companies should be more regulated.

The Ipsos numbers come days after the Canadian Internet Registration Authority released findings from its recent survey on Canadian internet use during the pandemic, conducted with The Strategic Council.

CIRA’s “Canada’s Internet Factbook” looked at a wide range of online behaviours, but also found evidence of Canadian social media anxiety. Nearly one-third (30%) of respondents said they have been reluctant to use social media or take part in an online discussion because they are worried about harassment, while 41% said Facebook is “the most toxic site they use.”

Less then two-thirds (63%) of respondents said they feel safe from harassment while on Facebook.



David Brown