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Does misinformation threaten social media democracies around the world?

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While social network platforms in the global democracies for media convergence, public opinion and freedom of expression remain an integral part without state inferences, censorship and reprisals, in recent years they have led to polarization, populism, biased facts, divisive political rhetoric, and manipulation that has affected the fabric of the Democracy threatened. Leading social media platforms, notably Facebook, operated by parent company Meta, owned by tech mogul Mark Zuckerberg, and microblogging site Twitter, now operated by freshly from India CEO Parag Agrawal, have not only changed developed into the greatest source of hatred and disinformation, but also failed to regulate the flow of information in a “biased” way.

A survey on media manipulation in 2020 by the Oxford University Institute on Friday December 17 found evidence in each of the 81 countries examined. Organized online manipulation campaigns on social media increased by 15% in at least 70 countries in one year in 2019, especially in relation to political communication. The OII team warns that the levels of political manipulation on Facebook and Twitter have increased tenfold as governments and political parties spend millions on private sector “cyber troops” manipulating public opinion and an average of $ 10 million on Display political advertisements on social media.

“Our report shows that misinformation has been professionalized and is now being produced on an industrial scale. Now, more than ever, the public needs to be able to rely on trustworthy information about government policies and activities, “said Philip Howard, director of the institute and co-author of the report, in the report.

A “violation” of democratic procedures; new tactics of foreign influence

During the 2020 presidential election, social media platforms Twitter and Facebook imposed an unprecedented ban on former US leader Donald Trump for his unsubstantiated claims of the “election fraud” that led to the violent uprising in the United States Capitol. In an apparent violation of democratic process, the mob attempted to stop the certification of the democratically elected President of the United States, Joe Biden.

Under public pressure, Twitter and Facebook then banned the former US president’s official social media accounts indefinitely, citing the political context of the emergency and national security, which the latter described as a bloody violation of his human rights and freedom of expression. The Geneva press club also extensively discussed the effects of such a move on democracy, as such measures by the social media giants impede freedom of expression.

“We made many mistakes running the company, and Facebook needs to work harder to make sure the tools it creates are used in ‘good and healthy’ ways.” —Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

In recent years, Facebook and Twitter have also been accused of using new foreign influence tactics to manipulate voters through a network of fake and automated accounts. In 2010, personal data of millions of Facebook users was collected by the British consultancy Cambridge Analytica without the knowledge or consent of users for political advertising via an app “This Is Your Digital Life” Support for the US presidential campaigns from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump 2016 were raised.

“We didn’t see our responsibility broad enough, and that was a big mistake. It was my fault and I am sorry. I founded Facebook, I manage it and I am responsible for what happens here. “- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of the social media platform Facebook after the data leak scandal.

Political parties like the Republicans and Democrats have been criticized for inflating their popularity by creating hashtags and trends associated with their political parties, thereby maliciously influencing democratic electoral systems. The most polarizing politicians in the world also use social media platforms to advance their agendas via artificial bots and fake accounts. According to the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russian conspirators interfered in the 2020 US election and hampered the democratic process by spreading discord, lies and disinformation among at least 100 million voters on social media platforms.

“Comprehensive and systematic” efforts to undermine democracies

The Russian government and Kremlin-affiliated companies tried “extensively and systematically” to undermine American confidence in their democracy, the Mueller report reveals, citing federal investigators. The former director of the FBI and law enforcement officer of the Trump administration, appointed as a special investigator to investigate Russian collusion, said during his testimony before two House committees that Russian agents hacked into local voter registration systems without actually tampering with voting numbers, but through launching a mass political campaign to influence American citizens’ opinions of politicians and the US political system by trolling and hacking accounts.

FBI Director Christopher Wray also confirmed with the Senate Judiciary Committee the undermining of American democracy, stressing that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016” to help elect Trump through an online political campaign. A Facebook representative also testified before the U.S. Congress, stating that between January 2015 and August 2017, at least 470 Russian-controlled accounts together published 80,000 political posts to influence the vote of over 126 million people, according to Facebook estimates.

Twitter also released an update in 2018 that there were 3,814 online accounts operated by the Russian government organization Internet Research Agency (IRA), which tried to influence political opinion by tweeting 175,000 times and reaching 1.4 million Americans . The threat to democracy posed by social media is mainly due to the unregulated content, the ineffective design and enforcement of fair policies, and the lack of authenticity of the millions of existing accounts.

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