Manipulating Social Media to Undermine Democracy

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Governments around the world are dramatically increasing their efforts to manipulate information on social media, threatening the notion of the internet as a liberating technology. Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate. The content manipulation contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, along with a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media. This report assesses internet freedom in 65 countries, accounting for 87 percent of internet users worldwide. The report primarily focuses on developments that occurred between June 2016 and May 2017, although some more recent events are included as well. Governments in a total of 30 countries deployed some form of manipulation to distort online information, up from 23 the previous year. Paid commentators, trolls, bots, false news sites, and propaganda outlets were among the techniques used by leaders to inflate their popular support and essentially endorse themselves.


Manipulating Social Media to Undermine Democracy