Ever since the election of the 45 POTUS Donald J. Trump, all we have heard from the main stream media is that Russian meddling played a significant role in the outcome.
Now, a new report from Oxford University has found that manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms is growing all the time & its not a Russian thing, its on the rise globally.
“Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science,”
The report goes on to say…
“The number of countries where formally organized social media manipulation occurs has greatly increased, from 28 to 48 countries globally,” says Samantha Bradshaw, co-author of the report. “The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods. There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the U.S. 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarize and manipulate voters.”
This is despite efforts by governments in many democracies introducing new legislation designed to combat fake news on the internet. “The problem with this is that these ‘task forces’ to combat fake news are being used as a new tool to legitimize censorship in authoritarian regimes,” says Professor Phil Howard, co-author and lead researcher on the OII’s Computational Propaganda project. “At best, these types of task forces are creating counter-narratives and building tools for citizen awareness and fact-checking.” Another challenge is the evolution of the mediums individuals use to share news and information. “There is evidence that disinformation campaigns are moving on to chat applications and alternative platforms,” says Bradshaw. “This is becoming increasingly common in the Global South, where large public groups on chat applications are more popular.”
Here are some of the key findings of the report….
- We have found evidence of formally organized social media manipulation campaigns in 48 countries, up from 28 countries last year. In each country there is at least one political party or government agency using social media to manipulate public opinion domestically.
- Much of this growth comes from countries where political parties are spreading disinformation during elections, or countries where government agencies feel threatened by junk news and foreign interference and are responding by developing their own computational propaganda campaigns in response.
- In a fifth of these 48 countries—mostly across the Global South—we found evidence of disinformation campaigns operating over chat applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram and WeChat.
- Computational propaganda still involves social media account automation and online commentary teams, but is making increasing use of paid advertisements and search engine optimization on a widening array of Internet platforms.
The entire report (click here) highlights the rise of governmental manipulation & censorship of information, the very powers that authoritarian regimes are renowned for.
This report also shows the hypocrisy of politicians & their main stream mouthpieces whenever they start blabbing on about “Russian collusion”, or their desire to clamp down on OUR internet rights to prevent the spread of what they call “fake news”.
Since 2010, political parties and governments have spent more than half a billion dollars on the research, development, and implementation of psychological operations and public opinion manipulation over social media.
In a few countries this includes efforts to counter extremism, but in most countries this involves the spread junk news and misinformation during elections, military crises, and complex humanitarian disasters.
In my opinion, we as users of social media, and society as a whole, need to change the way we think about & use social media. We must question everything, ever more so the information that already fits with any belief system or preconceived ideas we may hold, for this is where it is easiest to be manipulated.
We must also stop the infighting over posts that are most likely there just to cause division & non-constructive debate. Instead of calling out one topic over another as being a “distraction”, start to realize that all the information that is on our feed is there to steer us in one direction or another, all be it on a subconscious level.
Alex Jones may have his critics, but he nailed it when he said “we are in an infowar”. All information is being weaponized & anything that isn’t soon falls victim to censorship. Social media is the front line of the information warfare we are knowingly or unknowingly engaged. Time to keep your head down & make your shots, or in this case, posts count.
Read full report here…. CLICK HERE!