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Votes in 18 nations 'hacked' in last year

From BBC - November 14, 2017

Elections in 18 separate nations were influenced by online disinformation campaigns last year, suggests research.

Independent watchdog Freedom House looked at how online discourse was influenced by governments, bots and paid opinion formers.

In total, 30 governments were actively engaged in using social media to stifle dissent, said the report.

Educating users to spot fake news and making tech firms police their networks could combat the manipulation, it said.

Devastating impact

The annual report studied the state of internet freedom across 65 nations - covering about 87% of the world's net-using population.

For the seventh year running, it said, net freedom had declined as governments stepped up efforts to control what citizens said, did and shared online.

The different tactics used to influence online speech included:

Used alongside more overt technical controls such as firewalls, content filters and blocks on technical tools such as virtual private networks, the manipulation of social media had become a key tool for repressive regimes, it said.

"Not only is this manipulation difficult to detect, it is more difficult to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking, because it's dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it," said Sanja Kelly, head of the Freedom on the Net research project.

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