“The danger is the proliferation” of the techniques, he said. “Anybody who wants to influence the 2020 election may be tempted to copy what the Russian operation did in 2016.”
China’s emergence as a powerful force in global disinformation is one of the most significant developments of the past year, researchers said. The country has long used propaganda domestically, but the protests this year in Hong Kong brought evidence that it was expanding its efforts. In August, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube suspended accounts linked to Beijing that were spreading disinformation about the protests.
Philip N. Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute and one of the authors of the report, said that such online disinformation campaigns can no longer be understood to be the work of “lone hackers, or individual activists, or teenagers in the basement doing things for clickbait.”
There is a new professionalism to the activity, with formal organizations that use hiring plans, performance bonuses and receptionists, he said.
Social media became one of the primary venues for consuming news by accident and it has allowed a great many people find a voice. Unfortunately, it has also afforded governments the ability to shape public opinion both at home and abroad.
What is less remarked on is that newspapers tend to be rather partisan in their reporting and often give only one side of a story. That is primarily because they are orienting their coverage to the biases of who their assumed readership is. The problem with that competition for bias is it creates a market in the truth which can be exploited by propagandists both foreign and domestic. Consumers are increasingly of the opinion that all news is propaganda and it is hard to argue with that conclusion.
The increasing censorship programs being pursued by both Google and Facebook are uneven in nature and do nothing to quell the use of their platforms to further political agendas. I have to say it makes my job more difficult in winnowing nuggets of information from the morass of disinformation from all quarters.Back to top