Former Research Assistant
Samantha left the OII to become Assistant Professor at American University. She specialises in computational propaganda, social media and democracy, human rights, and Internet policy
The use of social media to disrupt elections, democracy, and human rights continues to grow, with 81 countries now using social media to spread computational propaganda and disinformation about politics.
This annual report on social media manipulation suggests that the increase in state-backed ‘cyber troop’ activity has yet to stall. Yet, the authors also underline the increasing role played by private actors. On the one hand, private strategic communication firms are increasingly running manipulation campaigns on behalf of governments and parties, for example employing bots, micro-targeting, or sock puppet accounts to prompt the trending of certain political messages. On the other, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have tried to limit the misuse of their platforms by taking down accounts that appear to be managed by cyber troops. Despite these efforts, the authors argue that the industrialised scale of social media manipulation poses a critical threat to democracy.