The president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada said the corporation is reviewing security for its employees in the wake of an act of vandalism on a CBC Kamloops vehicle, on which paint was splashed and “Fake News” was spray-painted in its door as it was parked downtown on April 4.
“First and foremost, I think we need to protect our journalists,” Catherine Tait told KTW in an interview. “We are looking at what security we need to provide so that people feel safe in their jobs. We cannot have people feeling anxious and nervous. You know, we’ve had incidents where a camera was slapped out of someone’s hand. Luckily, nobody has been physically attacked so that’s the good news, but we really need to understand how we can better protect better protect our journalists first and foremost.”
Tait said she believes the number of people who subscribe to the conspiracy theory/fake news agenda is probably stable and not necessarily growing.
“The difference is that they have been emboldened by social media and that dovetails to another very important conversation that we’re having internally about online harm and online hate and how do we protect our journalists and, in particular, women journalists and racialized journalists who are disproportionately targeted by vile, vitriolic, really unacceptable levels of attack online or whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook or on other social media platforms,” Tait said.
Ahmed Al-Rawl, assistant professor of social media, news and public communications at SFU, where he also runs the Disinformation Project, is an academic who analyzes social media commentary about fake news and Canadian politics.
In 2019, in the months and weeks before the federal election, Al-Rawl extracted 10,698 tweets on Twitter that contained the hashtags “fakenews” and “fake news” from a larger dataset of 2,5-million tweets that referenced Canadian politics with the #CDNpoli hashtag.
“Retweets often indicate what people online are mostly focusing on, and so I conducted a closer examination of the data set by investigating the most retweeted posts,” Al-Rawl wrote in an article posted on The Conversation.
Al-Rawl found there were systematic and targeted attacks accusing Canadian mainstream media outlets of a liberal bias. He found the most mentioned outlet was CBC (1,243), followed by Global News (301) and CTV News (105) in terms of stories that were often flagged as possibly fake, while the words most frequently associated with fake news were CBC, CBCNews and Global News. “Though not all the references were negative, many of the tweets targeted those specific outlets and their journalists to express dissatisfaction with their reporting,” Al-Rawl wrote. “In Canada, attacks against mainstream media seem to be systematic and continuous, even when the news coverage sounds objective and neutral.”
While conceding there is greater polarization in society, Tait said social media platforms have made it almost acceptable for some people to engage in misogynist, racist and violent language.
As a result, Tait said, the CBC is reviewing physical security at CBC Kamloops and at all of stations nationwide, in addition to devising a plan to train journalists on how to de-escalate a situation in which they might become involved.
“And then we’re also working on, what do we as a corporation do to stand up to those platforms and say this isn’t acceptable?” Tait said.
“And start to be very clear with them about takedowns and be much more proactive to protect our journalists and, finally, working with other media companies like you or the Star and the Globe and Mail and all the other news organizations to say, ‘Listen, we have a collective duty to protect our journalism in Canada because without our journalists, where’s our democracy?’”