Published: Thu, November 07, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Disinformation, surveillance seen as growing threats to democracy

Disinformation, surveillance seen as growing threats to democracy

In terms of internet freedom, the Freedom on the Net report has named Pakistan as not free.

In the U.S., Freedom House noted that internet users were subjected to both manipulation and surveillance on social media during the period analyzed for the report. What's really happening is that those of ill faith actors that manipulate elections and government officials are constantly watching users around the globe. The report singles out social media as being the main platform for both of these issues.

Governments harness big data for social media surveillance.

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"Many governments are finding that on social media, propaganda works better than censorship", said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

Political leaders in 38 nations, it found, have paid workers to shape online opinions over the past year.

Russian interference in the 2016 USA election, the report notes, is a prime example - and Iran, Saudi Arabia and China are among the most significant propaganda pushers.

The report's conclusion on this matter is stark.

"The future of Internet freedom rests on our ability to fix social media", researcher Adrian Shahbaz said.

The threat of account lockdown caused users to censor themselves or lose access to the platform, which has become necessary in everyday life in China, giving users access to services like transportation and banking. Freedom House labeled China the "world's worst abuser of internet freedom" for the fourth consecutive year.

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Armenia has again improved its standing in a fresh report assessing the state of internet freedoms and personal liberties in 65 countries, prepared by Freedom House, a Washington-based think tank. Its conclusion are far from positive.

Beijing clamped down harder on web users ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on April 15 and got tighter still in the face of ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong, the report says.

Several stories in the a year ago revealed how border authorities would deny entry to travelers for the content of social media posts made by other people, following changes to rules that compelled visa holders to disclose their social media handles at the border.

It also found that many individuals were being blocked from accessing the internet altogether, preventing them from accessing a number of basic services such as online banking and retail sites.

The report reported disinformation was rampant in the United States, concentrating on the November 2018 midterm elections, and that "each domestic and overseas actors manipulated written content for political purposes, undermining the democratic approach and stoking divisions in American modern society".

The countries where internet freedom decreased the most are Sudan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. Disinformation was the most commonly used tactic. There is obviously, therefore, still room for improvement, but the country is clearly moving in the right direction and is still classified as not free, despite the improvements that have been made.

While Cambodia's internet freedom score of 43 placed it in the "partly free" designation, it barely cleared 39-point-or-lower threshold of "not free".

Free expression is under assault. Only four countries-Iceland, Estonia, Canada, and Germany-scored 80 or above, with the United States garnering a score of 77.

The Freedom on the Net report is a vital measure of online freedom and huge credit needs to go to the Freedom House staff and their analysts who compile this vitally important data.

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