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AFP
November 6, 2019

Social media disinformation, surveillance growing

World

AFP
November 6, 2019

WASHINGTON: Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, in a worrisome trend for democracy, a human rights watchdog said on Tuesday.

An annual report on online freedom by the nonprofit group Freedom House found evidence of "advanced social media surveillance programs" in at least 40 of 65 countries analysed.

The report said global internet freedom declined for a ninth consecutive year, as authorities in some countries simply cut off internet access as part of their manipulation efforts, while others employed propaganda armies to distort information on social platforms. "Many governments are finding that on social media, propaganda works better than censorship," said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

"Authoritarians and populists around the globe are exploiting both human nature and computer algorithms to conquer the ballot box, running roughshod over rules designed to ensure free and fair elections."

Disinformation was the most commonly used tactic to undermine elections, according to the group. "Populists and far-right leaders have grown adept not only at creating viral disinformation, but also at harnessing networks that disseminate it," said the watchdog’s 2019 "Freedom on the Net" report.

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