Facebook is the most popular social network for governments spreading fake news and propaganda
- A new report from the University of Oxford showed that Facebook is the most common platform that governments and political parties use to spread disinformation.
- The report looks at how a growing number of governments and political parties around the world are using social media to spread disinformation in order to discredit political opponents, drown out opposing views, or undermine trust in the liberal international order.
- Researchers say that Facebook's sheer size and its set up makes it more vulnerable to the issue.
- There are now 70 countries where governments or political parties are misuing Facebook for this - more than double two years ago.
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Despite its efforts to crack down on fake news, Facebook continues to be the global platform of choice for political parties and governments to spread disinformation and shape public opinion, according to a new report from the University of Oxford.The report, entitled, "The Global Disinformation Order 2019: Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation," looked at how an increasing number of governments and political parties around the world are using social media propaganda to discredit political opponents, drown out opposing views, or undermine trust in the liberal international order.Advertisement
After three years of monitoring social media platforms, the results showed that the number of countries with governments or political parties that have engaged in social media manipulation has more than doubled in the past two years, up to 70 - and that Facebook continues to be at the heart of the issue.
The two Oxford Internet Institute researchers who put together the report laid out two key reasons for this: Facebook's global reach, and the fact that the platform structurally lends itself well to the spread of disinformation - users go there to read the news and share it with friends and family, and can easily set up groups or pages.Read more: Facebook is making another attempt to crack down on fake news
Facebook has come under intense scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over this issue over the past several years, and has made several changes to combat the spread of misinformation that has bedeviled its platform - from Russian propaganda during the 2016 US presidential election to disinformation coupled with hate speech that helped fuel genocide in Myanmar.Earlier this year, the company said it would crack down on groups where members repeatedly shared misleading content and hold group admins "more accountable" for rule-breaking tied to their groups. More recently, it added new verification requirements for ads on its platform about social issues, elections, and politics in the run-up to the 2020 US election.But the report underscores how, despite the efforts by Facebook and other social media firms, social media manipulation is on the rise and becoming ever-more sophisticated. It is now a "ubiquitous and pervasive part of the digital information ecosystem," the report said.Advertisement
"Evidence of organized social media manipulation campaigns which have taken place in 70 countries, up from 48 countries in 2018 and 28 countries in 2017. In each country, there is at least one political party or government agency using social media to shape public attitudes domestically," it added.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Facebook told Business Insider that protecting against harm and helping show people accurate information is a "major priority" for the company."We've developed smarter tools, greater transparency, and stronger partnerships to better identify emerging threats, stop bad actors, and reduce the spread of misinformation on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. We also know that this work is never finished and we can't do this alone. That's why we are working with policymakers, academics, and outside experts to make sure we continue to improve," he said. Advertisement
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