Research from the Oxford Internet Institute indicates that manipulation via social media to spread misinformation is increasingly growing in democracies around the world.
According to the report, voter manipulation is now prevalent in 70 countries compared to only 28 from two years ago. The report indicates that the spread of fake news is the “new ‘normal’” because of how far of a reach social media has, TechCrunch reported.
“Although propaganda has always been a part of political discourse, the deep and wide-ranging scope of these campaigns raise critical public interest concerns,” the report said, adding that the use of computational propaganda tools is seeing an uptick and is a “critical threat.”
“The use of computational propaganda to shape public attitudes via social media has become mainstream, extending far beyond the actions of a few bad actors,” the researchers said. “In an information environment characterized by high volumes of information and limited levels of user attention and trust, the tools and techniques of computational propaganda are becoming a common — and arguably essential — part of digital campaigning and public diplomacy.”
Governments around the world are using bots “to amplify hate speech or other forms of manipulated content,” the researchers noted.
According to the article, the researchers looked at computational propaganda activity in 70 countries.
The report also added that the problem is “largely taking place through Facebook’s funnel,” and is the platform of choice for manipulation and fake news.
It also added that computational propaganda techniques that are used alongside tech-enabled surveillance has helped authoritarian regimes to be able to extend the amount of control they have over citizens.
“The co-option of social media technologies provides authoritarian regimes with a powerful tool to shape public discussions and spread propaganda online, while simultaneously surveilling, censoring, and restricting digital public spaces,” the researchers said.
The report noted that 45 democracies, politicians and political parties “have used computational propaganda tools by amassing fake followers or spreading manipulated media to garner vote support.” It also said that 26 authoritarian states “have used computational propaganda as a tool of information control to suppress public opinion and press freedom, discredit criticism and oppositional voices, and drown out political dissent.”
Key findings also include 52 countries that have used disinformation and media manipulation to mislead users and 47 countries used state-sponsored trolls to attack political opponents.
This is the full list of countries that were researched: Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Myanmar, Netherlands, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.