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Your government is probably manipulating you on social media
14 November 2017, 06:59 | Edward Lowe
Image Getty Boogich
The report "Freedom of the Net 2017" assesses the situation in 65 countries, or 87 per cent of global internet users, from June 2016 to May 2017.
The 48-page "Freedom on the Net 2017" report by Freedom House, an organization dedicated to research of democracy and political freedom, says that elections in at least 18 countries in 2017 included significant roles played by online disinformation tactics.
In its annual report released late Monday, the Washington-based Freedom House said that manipulation and disinformation tactics on the internet played an important role in the elections of at least 18 countries, including the U.S., thereby "damaging citizens' ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate", reports Efe news.
Governments in 30 of these countries are using manipulation tools to distort online information, compared to 23 per cent previous year.
"The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating."
"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", it said.
A year ago independent online watchdog Freedom House pointed to the huge rise in countries censoring messaging apps like WhatsApp in its Freedom on the Net report.
It found governments including Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were using "paid pro-government commentators" to shape opinions online, often to give the impression of grassroots support for government policies. There's also Russia's accused meddling in the American presidential election, which was plagued by fake news.
Bloggers who attract more than 3,000 daily visitors must register their personal details with the Russian government and abide by the law regulating mass media―while search engines and news aggregators are banned from including stories from unregistered outlets.
Iceland, Estonia, and Canada scored the highest in terms of Internet freedom, while the United States placed fifth.
"The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary".
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.
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