Friday, 24 November, 2017

Your government is probably manipulating you on social media

Bangladesh partly free on internet: Study Governments in 30 countries pay 'keyboard armies' to spread propaganda, report says
Melinda Barton | 15 November, 2017, 09:41

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

"However, unreliable and politically biased content, including anti-Western propaganda, also proliferated online", Freedom House said.

Citizens are struggling to choose leaders based on factual news and authentic information because there's an influx of manipulated content appearing on their screens. "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".

Voters in 18 nations were influenced by online trolls, propaganda and disinformation campaigns originating from different sources in the previous year, according to a new study.

Members of a "keyboard army" are being paid to amplify the impression that the Duterte administration's "brutal crackdown on the drug trade" has obtained widespread public support, a US-based democracy and human rights watchdog said in a report released on Tuesday.

Usually the activity was contained within one nation, but increasingly governments were looking to social media to subvert debate beyond their own borders.

"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", said Sanja Kelly, head of the Freedom on the Net research project.

Freedom House, a global organisation working for the expansion of freedom and democracy, conducted the survey titled "Freedom on the Net" assessing 65 countries including Bangladesh on their levels of internet and digital media freedom.

Governments in 30 of these countries are using manipulation tools to distort online information, compared to 23 per cent a year ago.

The report comes after an alleged Russia-led campaign was exposed during 2016's U.S. presidential election campaign - shining a bright light on similar, seemingly state-backed, cases of cyber-meddling.

"The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary", Kelly warned.

Russia, which ranked 15th-worst, saw a decline in Internet freedom bolstered by the "hypocritical link between state propaganda and legal restrictions on the media", while countries like Belarus, which ranked 18th-worst, disrupted mobile connectivity to prevent live-streamed images from reaching mass audiences, the report said.

Ultimately, for the third consecutive year, Freedom House declared that China had been crowned the world's worst abuser of internet freedom, followed by Syria and Ethiopia.