Beware: The use of bots to quickly spread disinformation is growing exponentially.

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Despite recent efforts by Facebook, Twitter, and governments to rein in the proliferation of fake stories on social media, Oxford researchers found that the use of bots to quickly spread disinformation is growing exponentially.

In emerging and Western democracies, data analytics and political bots are being used to poison the information environment, promote skepticism and distrust, polarize voting constituencies, and undermine the integrity of democratic processes.

Social media manipulation is big business. It’s estimated that tens of millions of dollars are being spent on social media manipulation campaigns, involving tens of thousands of professional staff.

“We actually found 38 countries used bots last year, compared with 17 in the year before,” Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the new study, told McClatchy.

“Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement, to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants, and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike,” the study concludes. “We cannot wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions after running an election or referendum. Protecting our democracies now means setting the rules of fair play before voting day, not after.”

Source: Common Dreams

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