These efforts included paid commentators, trolls, "bots"―the name given to automated accounts―false news sites and propaganda outlets, according to the 2017 "Freedom on the Net" report by the human rights group Freedom House.
A study of social network manipulation found that of 65 surveyed countries, the governments of 30 of them found themselves active in targeting information in a false direction. This includes a "keyboard army" of people hired for 10 dollars a day by the Philippine government to create the impression of broad support for the authorities' brutal action against drug trafficking.
Freedom House says China was the world's worst abuser of internet freedom for a third straight year, due to stepped-up online censorship, a new law cracking down on anonymity online and the imprisonment of dissidents using the web.
WASHINGTON―More governments are following the lead of Russian Federation and China by manipulating social media and suppressing dissent online in a grave threat to democracy, a human rights watchdog said Tuesday. Fake news and aggressive trolling of journalists both during and after the presidential election contributed to a score decline in the United States' otherwise generally free environment.
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It certainly felt a long way away for a while. "Having those five or six years [on the sidelines]". Now I'm at the stage where I don't have to worry about it".
"Internet freedom improved in Georgia this year as internet penetration increased, and despite a brief blocking incident involving video-hosting platform Vimeo, the internet remained relatively free from censorship", the report reads. An example is a case in Ukraine where Russian-based services have been blocked, including the most widely used social networking and search engine in the country, in an attempt by Kiev to cope with Pro-Russian propaganda. "Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline".
Less than one-quarter of the world's Internet users reside in countries where the Internet is designated Free, meaning there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech. Most mobile shutdowns occurred in areas populated with ethnic or religious minorities such as Tibetan areas in China and Oromo areas in Ethiopia. Countries likes Belarus disrupted mobile connectivity to prevent livestreamed images from reaching mass audience. Many governments took additional steps to restrict encryption, leaving citizens further exposed.
Freedom House expressed concern over the growing restrictions on VPNs―virtual private networks that allow circumvention of censors―which are now in place in 14 countries.
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