The U.S. NGO Freedom House has released a report that shows that the governments of 30 countries across the globe are using “armies of opinion shapers” online to influence elections. Their Freedom of the Net 2017 report shows that in addition to Russia, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Turkey were major players in trying to influence opinion online to affect elections. However, most of the countries mentioned were using online manipulation to influence their own elections so their leaders could maintain power–not influence foreign elections, as Russia did in the United States. From the report:
Russia’s online efforts to influence the American election have been well documented, but the United States was hardly alone in this respect. Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate. Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad—as with Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe—in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power.
Other key findings from the report:
- Online manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 18 countries over the past year, including the United States.
- Disinformation tactics contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, as did a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media.
- A record number of governments have restricted mobile internet service for political or security reasons, often in areas populated by ethnic or religious minorities.
- For the third consecutive year, China was the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom, followed by Syria and Ethiopia.