India among Nations manipulating Social Media: Oxford Study

The report, Global Disinformation Order has said there is a growing use of social media to manufacture consensus, automate suppression, and undermine trust in the liberal international order all around.

A study by researchers at Oxford University has found that India is among the nations involved in organised social media manipulation, and such disinformation campaigns can be attributed to politicians and political parties. The researchers monitored social media platforms for three years to take note of organised manipulation by government agencies or political parties, and found over 70 countries were playing foul, up from 48 in 2018. Facebook and Twitter attributed foreign influence operations to seven countries — China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela — who have used these platforms to influence global audiences.

The report titled The Global Disinformation Order was released on Thursday, and said there is a growing use of social media to manufacture consensus, automate suppression, and undermine trust in the liberal international order around the world. The authors note, this disinformation campaign “involves building an inventory of the evolving strategies, tools, and techniques of computational propaganda, including the use of ‘political bots’ to amplify hate speech or other forms of manipulated content, the illegal harvesting of data or micro-targeting, or deploying an army of ‘trolls’ to bully or harass political dissidents or journalists online.” It termed these actors as “cyber troops”

In India, the report counted instance of political parties using advertising to target voters with manipulated media. It found political parties and private contractors high among those engaged in social media manipulation, but also noted such cases by civil society organisations and private citizens and influencers. In India, it found social media manipulations of three types: Supporting the government, attacking the opposition and driving divisions. Such actions were common among other nations, including the US, the report identified with manipulation.

State-sponsored trolling or doxing was also on the rise globally, with 47 nations using such tactics. In 52 of the 70 countries, cyber troops actively created content such as memes, videos, fake news websites or manipulated media in order to mislead users. In India, it noted misleading campaigns, trolls as well as data-driven strategies by cyber troops.

The capacity of cyber troops varied among nations. India was among nations with “medium cyber troop capacity“, involving full-time staff members who are employed year-round to control the information space. The US, China, Russia, Iran and Israel were among nations with “high cyber troop capacity”, involving large numbers of staff, and large budgetary expenditure on psychological operations or information warfare

A point to note:

  • It’s not always bots that engage in social media manipulation. The report said human-run accounts were more common than bots in such works. Such accounts engage in conversations by posting comments or tweets, or by private messaging individuals via social media platforms.

Access the report here.




Related Articles