Communications Security Establishment Canada has an eye for fake news

The government body wants Canadians to be more skeptical of what they see online.

By Christopher Lombardo

The feds want news readers to have a keen eye for disinformation.

A new campaign for Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), by agency partner Target, is meant to educate Canadians on the available resources to help them think more critically to prevent the spread of fake news.

That means representing skepticism literally with a raised eyebrow in a hero video showing people engaging with dubious content.

“Disinformation is a complicated topic. But the message is actually quite simple,” says TJ Arch, creative director at Target. “We want Canadians to be more skeptical of what they see online. And sometimes the clearest message can come from body language.”

Government messaging includes “If it raises your eyebrows, it should raise questions.”

As Arch notes, raising an eyebrow is an instinctive response when confronted with something we’re unsure about and a universal symbol for expressing skepticism.

“It’s basically the face’s version of a question mark,” Arch says “So it’s the perfect visual to sum up what we want people to do: question things they see online.”

Failing to do so, as CSE points out, has pernicious effects including making it harder for people to find factual content they can trust, particularly important during a health crisis like COVID-19. The spread of fake news reduces the government’s effectiveness in providing Canadians with the programs and services they need, while also reducing trust in institutions.

The campaign runs to the end of March 2024 across various media platforms, including online video and audio, digital display, and social media.

In advance of Christmas last year, Canada’s Security Establishment, in partnership with Banfield, held mall activations in Vancouver and Montreal that warned consumers about online threats and even launched Christmas carols about cyber safety.