Your government is probably manipulating you on social media

Lester Mason
November 14, 2017

WASHINGTON―More governments are following the lead of Russian Federation and China by manipulating social media and suppressing dissent online in a grave threat to democracy, a human rights watchdog said Tuesday.

This is threatening the use of the internet as a liberating form of communication between individuals, the civil liberties group claims.

Almost half of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net 2017 experienced declines during the coverage period, while just 13 made gains, majority minor, Freedom House reported. Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens' ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate.

Overall 32 of the 65 countries in the report have seen their internet freedom deteriorate over the previous year, most notably in Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.

Disinformation tactics contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, as did a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media.

This year the group said 30 of the 65 countries it surveyed used paid commentators, trolls, bots, fake news sites and propaganda outlets to inflate popular support for their governments and manipulate elections - up from just 23 last year. Its government has tasked a keyboard army to make people believe it's cracking down on the drug trade. It notes that 6,000 people reportedly were employed on social media by Turkey's ruling party to counter government opposition.

Sanja Kelly, director of the Freedom on the Net project, said: "Governments are now using social media to suppress dissent and advance an antidemocratic agenda".

Freedom House expressed concern over the growing restrictions on VPNs―virtual private networks that allow circumvention of censors―which are now in place in 14 countries.

"Not only is this manipulation hard to detect, it is more hard to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking, because it's dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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