Freedom House Sees Governments Increasing Social-Media Manipulation, Undermining Democracy

2017/11/14 23:13:14

According to a new report by Freedom House, in 2017 governments in a total of 30 countries deployed some form of manipulation to distort online information. For example, Ukrainian authorities, the report said, blocked Russia-based services, including the country's most widely used social network and search engine, after Russian agents flooded social media with fabricated stories advancing the Kremlin's narrative. 


By Alan Crosby for RFE/RL, Nov 14, 2017


Governments worldwide are increasing efforts to manipulate information on social media, undermining democracy and creating an overall decline in Internet freedom, according to Freedom House.


In its annual assessment of online freedom called Freedom On the Net 2017, released on November 14, the human rights group said online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an "important role" in elections in at least 18 countries in the past year, including Russia's influencing of the electoral process in the United States.


The report said less than one-quarter of Internet users in the 65 countries assessed have access to the web that can be considered "free," meaning there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights through unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech.


"The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global," U.S.-based Freedom House President Michael J. Abramowitz said in a statement accompanying the 44-page report.


"The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating," he added. 


China was the worst offender among the 65 nations assessed, followed by Ethiopia and Syria. 


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Illustrative photo courtesy article source


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