The way it’s been covered, you might think that Russia’s alleged attempt to manipulate last year’s US presidential election was the only time such an online propaganda campaign has ever been waged. But you’d be wrong. It turns out the use of fake news and other disinformation is fairly widespread.
Online manipulation and propaganda played an important role in elections not only in the US, but in 17 other countries around the globe in the year ending May 31, according to the lastest Freedom of the Net report from Freedom House, a nonprofit organization that promotes democracy and civil liberties. Outside of election periods, similar disinformation efforts took place in even more countries.
The online propaganda campaign in the US was largely perpetrated by actors outside its borders. But the disinformation efforts in other countries were largely homegrown, according to the report. As we can see in this chart from Statista, much of the propaganda in affected countries was propagated by progovernment groups.
Regardless of their source or where they took place, the misinformation campaigns played an important role in Freedom House’s assessment that internet freedom worldwide declined for the seventh year in a row.