Tuesday, 18 September, 2018


Governments in 30 countries pay 'keyboard armies' to spread propaganda, report says

BPA via Getty Images BPA via Getty Images
Bennie Garza | 14 November, 2017, 21:41

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 USA, thereby "damaging citizens' ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate", reports Efe news.

Online manipulation and disinformation tactics were used in elections of around 18 countries in the a year ago, Freedom House claims, including the USA presidential elections.

These efforts included paid commentators, trolls, "bots"―the name given to automated accounts―false news sites and propaganda outlets, according to the 2017 "Freedom on the Net" report by the human rights group Freedom House.

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.

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".

For the third consecutive year, China was the worst abuser of internet freedom in the world, followed by Syria and Ethiopia.

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.

Fake news and alternative facts are being employed by more governments than ever before. It also notes that some countries actively blocked attempts to restrict freedom, noting Ukraine's actions against Russian-based search engines.

It said the countries with the fewest government Internet restrictions were, in order, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Germany, Australia and the United States.

"When trying to combat online manipulation from overseas, it is important for countries not to overreach", Kelly said. "Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline".

Georgia received 24 points, which means the country has a status of a free country in terms of internet.

"While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact", the report said.

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