Governments are Manipulating the Internet with Fake News

A study of internet freedom in 65 countries found 30 governments are deploying some form of manipulation to distort online information

A study of internet freedom in 65 countries found 30 governments are deploying some form of manipulation to distort online information

Overall 32 of the 65 countries in the report have seen their internet freedom deteriorate over the a year ago, most notably in Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.

The report said online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States.

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

Sanja Kelly, director of the Freedom on the Net project, explained such manipulation is often hard to detect, and "more difficult to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking".

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

Other countries also increased their efforts to censor and manipulate information, the report said. This includes a "keyboard army" of people hired for 10 dollars a day by the Philippine government to create the impression of broad support for the authorities' brutal action against drug trafficking.

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Fake news and alternative facts are being employed by more governments than ever before.

A study of social network manipulation found that of 65 surveyed countries, the governments of 30 of them found themselves active in targeting information in a false direction. An example is a case in Ukraine where Russian-based services have been blocked, including the most widely used social networking and search engine in the country, in an attempt by Kiev to cope with Pro-Russian propaganda. "Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline".

Less than a quarter of the world's internet users reside in countries where networks are designated as "free", which, according to Freedom House, means that "there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech".

Iceland, Estonia, and Canada scored the highest in terms of Internet freedom, while the United States placed fifth.

"Journalists who challenge Donald Trump's positions have faced egregious online harassment".

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