Canadian Trust in Social Media and AI is Falling

New technology always takes a little while for the general public to latch onto and grow comfortable with. But sometimes, there may be a good reason to be cautious.

Social media and AI may have a long way to go when it comes to building the trust of Canadians. Proof’s CanTrust Index has revealed that trust among Canadians in Facebook dropped significantly, from 51 per cent last year to 34 per cent. Distrust of the social media giant is consistent across all ages, genders and geography in Canada.

Overall trust of social media platforms has been stuck in the low twenties for the past few years and is now stagnant at 22 per cent. Despite all of this, 76 per cent of Canadians say they are weekly Facebook users.

The worst part of this all—at least for Facebook—is that this study was fielded before the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. Overall trust in the platform could now even be much lower.

Social media rightfully has to answer for a few issues, mostly revolving around privacy and the sharing of data. But Canadians’ opinion of one of AI, one of the nation’s burgeoning technologies, is also in doubt.

Just 25 per cent of Canadians say they trust AI, though that overall number is pulled low by those over 50, who sit at 18 per cent. For 18-24-year-olds, that percentage is 33.

CanTrust Infographic AI

“With the rise of the surveillance society, social media platforms and the AI sector now face a trust tipping point,” said Proof CEO Bruce MacLellan. “As algorithms track online behaviour, listening tools pattern the words and tone of conversations, and social media platforms share personal data, society will need to build consensus on what is acceptable and permitted.”

Trust levels are also very low for how Canadians think AI will impact the country. Just 38 per cent of Canadians think AI will positively contribute to the economy—a figure that sounds hard to comprehend, considering the massive strides Canada has made in the sector over the past couple of years.

In broader terms, the trust of Canada’s public sector is outpacing trust in the private sector, and the gap is continuing to widen. Canadians have high trust levels in hospitals, colleges and universities, and police, but similar trust levels in private companies are diving, with Bombardier suffering the highest individual drop.