The variety of international locations utilizing organized social media manipulation campaigns went up by 15 % in 2020 in comparison with the earlier 12 months, a brand new report by Oxford College says.
Of the 81 international locations surveyed, all of their residents have been focused by social media manipulation campaigns, up from 70% in 2019.
The report serves as an indictment of the latest pattern of social media manipulation by political actors, which solely seems to have worsened for the reason that Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 got here to mild.
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The alarming rise of ‘cyber troops’
Disinformation has “develop into a standard technique, with greater than 93% of the [surveyed] international locations (76 out of 81) seeing disinformation deployed as a part of political communication,” Oxford College explains in a press statement.
The group behind the examine — from the Oxford Web Institute on the College of Oxford — warns that social media manipulation is rising at an alarming charge, with governments spending hundreds of thousands on personal sector ‘cyber troops,’ whose sole goal is to misinform the general public.
What’s extra, citizen influencers, resembling youth teams and civil society organizations, are used to unfold manipulated messages.
“Our report exhibits misinformation has develop into extra professionalized and is now produced on an industrial scale,” says Professor Philip Howard, Director of the Oxford Web Institute on the College of Oxford, and the report’s co-author.
The authors spotlight the necessity for social media corporations to extend their efforts to flag misinformation and shut pretend accounts with out authorities intervention.
Social media manipulation statistics
The present scenario is “polluting the digital info ecosystem and suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Dr. Samantha Bradshaw, the report’s lead writer.
“A big a part of this exercise has develop into professionalized, with personal corporations providing disinformation-for-hire companies,” she continues.
The Oxford College report highlights the truth that $60 million has been spent on corporations who promote misinformation-peddling bots as a service.
Although the report acknowledges corporations resembling Facebook and Twitter eliminated greater than 317,000 accounts and pages from ‘cyber troops’ actors between January 2019 and November 2020, it calls on these corporations to double their efforts as a way to stem a scenario spiraling uncontrolled.
Listed here are a few of the most alarming statistics from the report:
- 79 international locations used human accounts
- 57 counties used bot accounts
- 14 international locations used hacked or stolen accounts
- 76 international locations used disinformation and media manipulation as a part of their campaigns
- 30 international locations used data-driven methods to focus on particular customers with political commercials
- 59 international locations used state-sponsored trolls to assault political opponents or activists in 2019, up from 47 international locations in 2019