The interference by government and civilian actors is limiting internet freedom for users

Due to the extra involvement for elections integrity, the monitoring of government is hurting the freedom of internet users.

According to a recent report by Freedom House, The freedom for speech and privacy on the internet is declined globally for the ninth consecutive year. As stated by the report, there are two main reasons behind the decline in freedom of speech and privacy and that is increased online election interference by government and civilian actors and increase in the surveillance by government on social media platforms.

According to the report, the spread of disinformation during the periods of elections on social media platforms affects a vast amount of population and the future of internet freedom depends on how we tackle these issues.

According to the report assessed over the past year, out of 65 countries more than 47 countries arrested internet users for posting political content on social or religious speeches online. Around 40 countries enabled the feature of advanced social media surveillance programs and in more than 38 countries the political leaders hired employees to shape the online opinions of internet users. Since last year, around 33 countries faced a decline in their internet freedom score - a measure that factors in the obstacles a country faces to its internet access and user rights violations. Only 16 countries displayed improvements in their internet scores since the last year.

Since the reports of involvement of Russian actors on social media during US presidential elections, Facebook has been trying out various strategies to stop the rise of manipulation on a social media platform and to increase more transparency for users regarding the data requests for the government.

Is the internet relatively free?

If you take a look at the internet in the US, you’ll realize that it is pretty much free despite the accusations of spread of disinformation in 2018 midterm elections and even with the increased monitoring of social media platforms the internet still scored around 77 on a scale of 0 (not free) to 100 (free).

The interference of actors during elections is spreading and there’s no one trying anything to stop it at all. The spread of disinformation on social media platforms helps governments during elections more and the majority of the people from around the world are trying to manipulate various computer algorithms just to breach the fair means of elections.

According to the recent study, 26 countries out of 30 interfered with its domestic actors during national votes last year which means that during the past year the discussion was manipulated online in favor of either government or other political parties. In the digital election, access to news sources, communication tools, and even the entire internet access were restricted during the elections.

Recommendations for secure elections

For secure elections, the following are the recommendations that the policymakers should definitely take a look at

· More transparency for online political advertisements

· Aware users of social media regarding the manipulation of social media through bots.

· Create a team focused solely to address cybersecurity and disinformation related to online elections.

Bottom Line

The spread of misinformation on social media platforms and the involvements of third party actors during online elections is completely rigging the authenticity of social media platforms and after the detection of manipulations in 2016 election we think the upcoming 2020 election will be tested for not just government but also for the tech companies to stop the spread of misinformation on social media platforms before it gets any worse.

Photo: alexskopje / Shutterstock

Read next: The Impact of Social Media Bots on Modern Democracies
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