Executive Summary: “The Computational Propaganda Research Project at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, has researched the use of social media for public opinion manipulation. The team involved 12 researchers across nine countries who, altogether, interviewed 65 experts, analyzed tens of millions posts on seven different social media platforms during scores of elections, political crises, and national security incidents. Each case study analyzes qualitative, quantitative, and computational evidence collected between 2015 and 2017 from Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Poland, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.
Computational propaganda is the use of algorithms, automation, and human curation to purposefully distribute misleading information over social media networks. We find several distinct global trends in computational propaganda. •
- Social media are significant platforms for political engagement and crucial channels for disseminating news content. Social media platforms are the primary media over which young people develop their political identities.
- In some countries this is because some companies, such as Facebook, are effectively monopoly platforms for public life. o In several democracies the majority of voters use social media to share political news and information, especially during elections.
- In countries where only small proportions of the public have regular access to social media, such platforms are still fundamental infrastructure for political conversation among the journalists, civil society leaders, and political elites.
- Social media are actively used as a tool for public opinion manipulation, though in diverse ways and on different topics. o In authoritarian countries, social media platforms are a primary means of social control. This is especially true during political and security crises. o In democracies, social media are actively used for computational propaganda either through broad efforts at opinion manipulation or targeted experiments on particular segments of the public.
- In every country we found civil society groups trying, but struggling, to protect themselves and respond to active misinformation campaigns….(More)”.