Tuesday, October 22, 2019
The use of social media to influence public opinion is increasing in autocracies and democracies alike
- Knowledge and skills in online propaganda are diffusing globally, informally or through training.
- Even without foreign interference, democracies will suffer from disruptive domestic actors.
- Mistrust of social media will rise, creating obstacles to healthy democratic debate.
Countries across the world are increasing their social media manipulation capabilities. According to an October report by the University of Oxford, all 70 countries examined show evidence of organised manipulation campaigns -- up from 48 last year.
Authoritarian regimes use social media to suppress criticism, drown out political dissent and discredit opposition. In democracies, governments, parties and politicians also turn to social media to influence domestic public opinion: politicians have amassed fake followers to raise their profile, targeted voters with specific media, or engaged in campaigns on social networks such as WhatsApp.
This will challenge policymakers in democracies as they struggle to balance free speech with dishonest attempts to shape public opinion by domestic actors.
© Oxford Analytica 2020. All rights reserved. This content contains general information about geopolitical, macroeconomic and social developments or (where stated) other matters. It does not contain advice or recommendations that may be relied on. Where links to external websites are provided, this does not indicate that Oxford Analytica or Emerald Group agree with, endorse or have checked for accuracy the contents of said sites.