Many governments around the world have “drastically” increased their attempts to manipulate information on social networks, which contributed to making this the seventh consecutive year of overall decline in Internet freedom, according to the annual report published today by the Freedom House organization.
Internet manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in the elections of at least 18 countries, including the United States, “which damaged the ability of citizens to choose their leaders based on objective news and authentic debates,” he says. the document, ahead of the press.
The report “Internet Freedom 2017”, which is presented this Tuesday in Washington, focuses on the period between June 2016 and May this year and assesses the situation in 65 countries, which account for 87 percent of users of internet in the world.
“The manipulation of online content contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in Internet freedom, coupled with an increase in mobile Internet service interruptions and an increase in physical and technical attacks against Human Rights defenders and independent media, “he concludes.
The governments of a total of 30 countries deployed “some form of manipulation” to distort information on the Internet, seven more than the 23 of the previous period.
“Paid commentators, trolls, bots, fake news sites and propaganda media were some of the techniques used by leaders to inflate their popular support and essentially endorse themselves,” the report said.
Most governments focused on public opinion within their own borders but others “sought to expand their interests abroad, exemplified by a campaign of Russian misinformation to influence US elections.”
For the third consecutive year, China was “the worst abuser” of Internet freedom in the world, followed by Syria and Ethiopia.
Less than a quarter of the world’s Internet users reside in countries where the network is designated as “free”, which, according to Freedom House’s parameters, means that “there are no major obstacles to access, onerous content restrictions or serious violations of user rights such as surveillance without control or unfair repercussions for legitimate discourse. ”
Since June 2016, 32 of the 65 countries evaluated in the report have seen their situation deteriorated and the most notable setbacks were recorded by Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.
Spain does not appear in the report, nor do other southern European countries such as Portugal and Greece, and Latin America highlights the decline in Venezuela, Mexico and Ecuador.
The internet in Venezuela came to be declared “not free” in the report because it decreased access, increased censorship and there were blockades and technical attacks against media and NGOs.
Mexico denounces the “illegal surveillance practices” included in the investigations that revealed “that government spyware attacked abusively the people involved in the investigation of corruption and human rights abuses.”
And on Ecuador, it is pointed out that during the presidential election campaign social media accounts of politicians, journalists and “opposition” activists were hacked to “spread disinformation”.
Freedom House is an independent organization based in Washington that tracks the state of freedom, democracy and human rights in the world.