Freedom House – “Governments around the world are increasingly using social media to manipulate elections and monitor their citizens, tilting the technology toward digital authoritarianism. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year, according to Freedom on the Net 2019, the latest edition of the annual country-by-country assessment of internet freedom, released today by Freedom House. Adding to the problem of meddling by foreign regimes, a new menace to democracy has risen from within, as populist leaders and their armies of online supporters seek to distort politics at home. Domestic election interference marred the online landscape in 26 of the 30 countries studied that held national votes over the past year. Disinformation was the most commonly used tactic. Authorities in some countries blocked websites or cut off access to the internet in a desperate bid to cling to power.
“Many governments are finding that on social media, propaganda works better than censorship,” said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Authoritarians and populists around the globe are exploiting both human nature and computer algorithms to conquer the ballot box, running roughshod over rules designed to ensure free and fair elections.” Governments from across the democratic spectrum are indiscriminately monitoring citizens’ online behavior to identify perceived threats—and in some cases to silence opposition. Freedom House has found evidence of advanced social media surveillance programs in at least 40 of the 65 countries analyzed..”