Arabic AR Chinese (Simplified) ZH-CN English EN French FR German DE Japanese JA Portuguese PT Russian RU Spanish ES Ukrainian UK

Votes in 18 nations ‘hacked’ in last year

Latest news

    Facebook and WhatsApp appsImage copyright Getty Images
    Image caption China disrupted use of WhatsApp prior to official government conferences, the report says

    Elections in 18 separate nations were influenced by online disinformation campaigns last year, suggests research.

    Independent watchdog Freedom House looked at how online discourse was influenced by governments, bots and paid opinion formers.

    In total, 30 governments were actively engaged in using social media to stifle dissent, said the report.

    Educating users to spot fake news and making tech firms police their networks could combat the manipulation, it said.

    Devastating impact

    The annual report studied the state of internet freedom across 65 nations – covering about 87% of the world’s net-using population.

    For the seventh year running, it said, net freedom had declined as governments stepped up efforts to control what citizens said, did and shared online.

    The different tactics used to influence online speech included:

    • automated bots that echoed official messages
    • armies of paid commentators that swamped discussions with pro-government views
    • false news sites that spread misleading information
    • trolling that soaked up critics’ time with personal attacks

    Used alongside more overt technical controls such as firewalls, content filters and blocks on technical tools such as virtual private networks, the manipulation of social media had become a key tool for repressive regimes, it said.

    “Not only is this manipulation difficult to detect, it is more difficult 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.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Mobile services and apps were often disrupted by regimes keen to stifle political chatter, the report says

    Ms Kelly said China and Russia had pioneered widespread net controls but the techniques had now gone “global”.

    Many other nations, including Turkey, the Philippines, Syria and Ethiopia, now employed them extensively, she said.

    “The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating,” added Ms Kelly.

    Official efforts to control debate were most obvious during elections, said the Freedom House report – which were held in 18 of the countries researchers examined.

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

    Russia, in particular, said the report, had made significant efforts to influence the US presidential election.

    It said less than 25% of the world’s net users lived in nations where net access could be considered free, meaning:

    • no significant obstacles to getting online
    • few restrictions on what could be shared or viewed
    • surveillance was limited
    • no significant repercussions for those exercising free speech
    View the original article:

    The report said net freedom could be aided by:

    • large-scale programmes that showed people how to spot fake news
    • putting tight controls on political adverts
    • making social media giants do more to remove bots and tune algorithms to be more objective

    In the same category are

    Army bids farewell to Lynx helicopter with flypast tour Image copyright MOD Image caption The Lynx has been in service with the Army Air Corps since 1978 The Army is set to bid farewell to the Lynx heli...
    UKIP AM Michelle Brown to face committee over racial slur Image caption Michelle Brown has already accepted that her language was inappropriate A UKIP AM will be questioned on Tuesday by the assembly's st...
    Newspaper headlines: ‘Carillion’s gazillions’ and Iceland’s plastic ban Image caption A number of the papers lead on the collapse of government contractor Carillion. The Times says taxpayers are now facing a "huge bill"...
    PBOC official says China’s centralized virtual currency trade needs to end: source BEIJING (Reuters) - A senior Chinese central banker says authorities should ban centralized trading of virtual currencies as well as individuals and b...
    Australian father’s instinct helps find trapped son Image copyright NSW Ambulance Image caption The man had been trapped for 30 hours by the time he was rescued An Australian teenager has been found...
    £350m Brexit claim was ‘too low’, says Boris Johnson Image copyright Getty Images The controversial claim that the UK sends £350m a week to the EU was a "gross underestimate", Foreign Secretary Boris J...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *