Report: Facebook and Twitter are used for manipulating the public opinion
A study conducted in nine countries by the University of Oxford shows that Facebook and Twitter are used for manipulating the public opinion through propaganda, according to The Guardian.
The study shows several interesting details. For instance, 45% of the extremely active Twitter accounts in Russia are bots, while Taiwan had an online campaign against President Tsai Ing-wen in which thousands engaged, spreading propaganda from mainland China.
The report, analysing USA, Canada, Brazil, China, Taiwan, Germany, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, shows that lies and misinformation take advantage of Facebook and Twitter algorithms.
The easiest part of the manipulation is using automatic accounts that like, share or post various things on social media. These accounts have algorithms that fool those who use the networks, and thus their posts make it into people’s newsfeeds. These can ”drown” an authentic debate through massive posts, and this creates the illusion of popularity.
The authors of the report thus show that this leads to a ”manufactured agreement” which is dangerous because the fake support latter results in a real one. One of the examples given in the report is Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which was the digital centre of his campaign, and users started taking it seriously.
Ukraine, Russia’s online “guinea pig”
Experts further say that Ukraine is now Russia’s “guinea pig” regarding the online manipulative techniques. Furthermore, Ukraine has already blocked social network VKontakte, “Russia’s Facebook” and Yandex, “Russia’s Google” under the accusation that they make propaganda for Moscow.
Lack of interest among companies
On the other hand, the report emphasises that there is an apparent lack of interest from Facebook and Twitter in seeing how their networks are being used.
Facebook leaves most of its anti-propaganda battle in the hands of organisations such as Snopes or Associated Press, which uses semi-autonomous teams that mark viral news as true or false. Facebook has recently announced that it is hiring 3,000 people in order to report and eliminate the violent content on the platform.
With Twitter, it is noticeable that anti-bot systems are very fast when it comes to suppressing commercial activity, but not when it comes to political activity.
Scientists stated that Facebook and Twitter should urgently take measures, concluding that social networks tend to apply only the minimum legal demands.
Germany, in the global front-line
Nevertheless, scientists found a country in which the situation is different. In Germany, the fear of destabilisation exceeded the fear of automatic accounts, so the country asked for the implementation of universal laws that would clearly state that social networks carry the responsibility for what it is published on their platforms. Germany also has a law proposal for social networks to be fined by 50 million Euros if they do not eliminate extremist content fast enough.