Bots commonly shoulder the blame for social media propaganda, but a recent study out of the U.K. suggests not only that organized political misinformation campaigns have more than doubled in the last two years, but that bots take second place to human-run manipulation. The Global Disinformation Order study, conducted by the University of Oxford, found evidence of social media manipulation by a government agency or political party in 70 countries, an increase from 48 in 2018 and 28 in 2017. The study has been collecting data annually since 2017, but suggests political propaganda has leveraged social media for the last decade. The study, co-authored by Samantha Bradshaw and Phillip N. Howard, tallies up reports from around the world on cyber troops, defined as “government or political party actors tasked with manipulating public opinion online.” While the report focuses on propaganda that can be traced back to a government agency, politician, or political parties, the researchers found formal coordination with private communication firms, and in more than 40% of the countries, civic organizations and citizens. Much of propaganda is created by actual people: 87% of the countries use human accounts compared to the 80% of countries using bots. In some cases,… Read full this story
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