The federal government has granted $1.2 million in funding to 16 new research projects intended to “counter online disinformation and other online harms and threats,” some of which are described as “alt-right” or “credibility attacks on journalists.”
The 16 projects were selected following an annual call for proposals launched in July 2022 by the Digital Citizen Contribution Program (DCCP). The program is part of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Initiative (DCI), which “promotes civic, news, and digital media literacy through funding third-party educational activities and programming to help citizens become resilient against disinformation.”
The funding announcement was made on Jan. 11 by Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.
One of the projects, being conducted at Concordia University in Montreal, will study internet memes and games as possible “alternative media sources for disinformation.”
The Concordia project aims to “detail current activity by the Canadian alt-right in amateur game creation and wider game culture, particularly in the areas of memes, minigames and game mods, in order to create typologies and frameworks for mapping the evolution and spread of such content.”
It will also work to “raise awareness among the wider public about alt-right activity in game culture.”
The University of British Columbia’s Global Reporting Centre is receiving funding for a project called “Shooting the Messenger: Credibility Attacks on Journalists.”
The project aims to study and help counteract online campaigns that “discredit and harass journalists and locate these activities in broader efforts to misinform publics.”
“This project has a strong focus on Canadian journalists but is also investigating how the targeting of journalists and media institutions in Canada compares to other countries,” reads the project’s description.
A number of the projects aim to counter racism in various communities or municipalities in Canada.
Another project, titled “Prevalence and Types of Online Harms Encountered by Canadians in Day-to-Day Use of Digital Media,” is being conducted at McGill University in Montreal.
The project aims to create an “evidence-based risk assessment model” for digital media companies in order to show them “the range of harms and risks” individuals might experience on a day-to-day basis while using their platforms.
The project also says its purpose is also to “hold platform companies accountable” for the online harms that might be present on their services.
The Ontario Digital Literacy and Access Network is also being funded to carry out a project that will study possible ways to “protect Canadian organizations from queerphobic cyber-violence.”
“Organizations that serve 2SLGBTQ+ people become targets of online homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia, which can intersect with racism, classism, sexism, and ableism,” says the project description.
Rodriguez and LeBlanc also announced on Jan. 11 a new $1.5 million DCCP call for proposals to fund projects that will raise awareness about tools and services offered by non-government organizations and online platforms to counter online harms against children. This includes, “more generally hate speech, incitement to violence, child sexual exploitation material, and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images,” the description says.
The federal government previously announced, in its Fall Economic Statement in November 2022, that it was extending the DCI and providing it with $31 million in new funding over four years beginning in the 2022–23 fiscal year.