New Report Reveals Extent of Social Media’s Impact on Public Opinion

In the wake of the last US election, the concept of social media being used to manipulate public opinion started to actually be taken seriously. However, up until this point in time there wasn’t any real world indicator of the extent to which social media could potentially end up being used by people that are trying to manipulate public opinion.

One really shocking statistic that you would want to know about is that in spite of the fact that the Cambridge Analytica scandal shocked the world, since that year there really hasn’t been all that much headway made in reducing the impact that social media has on public opinion. Now, over seventy countries regularly use social media as a tool for propaganda, with organized manipulation of social media feeds being a tactic that is widely used among nations that are trying to support a specific kind of rhetoric.

The research that led to the discovery of the findings stated above also discovered that over forty democratic nations from around the world used illicit tactics to gain fake followers, something that is usually supposed to be restricted but inevitably people with vested interests find some way to slip through the cracks.

Things get even worse when you start looking at states that are less democratic and more authoritarian in their approach to governance. In states of this nature, social media can actually become a tool that is used to oppress the people of a nation.
"A handful of sophisticated state actors use computational propaganda for foreign influence operations. Facebook and Twitter attributed foreign influence operations to seven countries (China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) who have used these platforms to influence global audiences.", explained research. Adding further, "Despite there being more social networking platforms than ever, Facebook remains the platform of choice for social media manipulation. In 56 countries, we found evidence of formally organized computational propaganda campaigns on Facebook."
What all of this means is that steps need to be taken in order to prevent the spread of misinformation on social media. Social media should not become a tool that leaders can use to try and sway public opinion, rather they should be unbiased spaces where the truth can be spoken and heard without there being any doubt in the matter.

Photo: Chesnot | Getty Images

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