There are many things that we love about social media. We love that it keeps us in touch with the world and that it keeps us entertained in our moments of boredom. For better or for worse, one can never be bored if they go on social media.
There is, however, a bad side to it: the public opinion manipulation that has been occurring more often than ever – and it has become a threat to public life now. Political parties and government agencies around the world have been exploiting various social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to spread disinformation and fake news. This is also their way of exercising control and censorship – but also of undermining science, public institutions, and media trust.
New Evidence of Computational Propaganda
Up until now, there have been various efforts to combat this social propaganda. However, a report written by the Oxford Internet Institute shows that the problem is only growing – and at a larger scale than ever.
Samantha Bradshaw, one of the co-authors of the report, claims that the countries attempting to manipulate the masses over social media has doubled in numbers. Before, there were 28 countries from the entire globe. Now there are 48 of them.
The cause of this growth is thought to be the political parties – which made a habit of spreading fake news and disinformation when the elections were nearing. Plus, not only are they selling junk news to the reader, but they are also selling campaigns made with an Instagram bot in an attempt to manipulate the voters.
The Attempt to Combat Propaganda
The government tried several times in a variety of democracies to combat this type of propaganda and delivery of fake news. However, these attempts did not manage to do much for the masses – and if anything, they just became a tool for fact-checking and political awareness.
The fact that the masses nowadays share everything they see on the internet does not help their cause much either. The information is no longer sent just on news feeds, but on alternative platforms and chat applications as well. This is a common occurrence in the Global South, where these types of applications are common.
There have been companies using apps such as Upleap to improve their marketing and propaganda – but most of the time, in an honest way. On the other hand, one of the most-used tactics still remains the automatic bot. In this case, the political parties will use fake accounts and online commentators to spread a message.
And these bots do not even use real people. They use algorithms, sharing the content based on keywords – which will get a certain post trending.
Social media is no longer a place for entertainment; it is a place where business takes place. Millions of dollars are being spent on these campaigns – as well as the “extras” needed to make it trending. And since nothing is lost on the Internet, it will just continue to spread.