As regulators warn investors against relying on Reddit chatrooms to guide their trading decisions, new research from Statistics Canada shows that most Canadians found false information about the Covid-19 pandemic online — and many of them believed and shared that information.
The national statistical agency published a study examining the flood of online information about the pandemic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic was accompanied by an infodemic — an overabundance of information, some which is true and some which is not, which made it very difficult for people to find facts and reliable sources,” the study said.
The research, which was carried out in July 2020, found that 90% of Canadians used online sources to find information about the pandemic, and 96% of them saw information that they suspected was “misleading, false or inaccurate.”
Yet, only 21% reported that they always double-checked the information they found online, and 37% said they often double-checked.
StatsCan’s research also found that 40% reported that they believed information that they later realized was false.
Additionally, the research found that 53% shared Covid-19 information they found online without knowing if it was accurate.
Older Canadians (aged 55 and over) were less likely to try to verify information they found online, and they were also more likely to share information without verifying it, the study said.
The research revealing the prevalence of pandemic misinformation comes in the wake of a warning to investors from the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) against using unreliable online information to make trading decisions.
“We caution investors to consider the source of information and advice they are relying on to make investment decisions. Online chat rooms are unregulated and may contain information that is inaccurate or inappropriate for some investors,” the CSA and IIROC said in a release addressing the recent surge in retail trading.