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Things you need to know about social media manipulation

Things you need to know about social media manipulation
  • Social media manipulation involves a series of techniques that abuse social media algorithms and automation to manipulate public opinion.
  • This is usually done with a political or criminal motive and impacts the idea of democracy.

Understanding social media manipulation

Social media is used by a majority of the world’s population. This means not just better global reach but also more user information than other platforms, making it an increasingly popular medium for manipulation.

  • ‘Cyber Troop’ is a term used to identify the entities that leverage social media to manipulate public opinion.
  • Research has found an increasing number of cyber troops from various countries engaging on social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube among others.
  • Fake accounts, bot-controlled accounts, hacked accounts, spreading misinformation, suppressing information, amplifying content are a few components of the social media manipulation environment.
  • Multiple campaigns have been observed being launched, especially during election times. Trolling and harassment targeted against political opinions or activists is also a part of certain campaigns.

Difficulties in monitoring

The easy and inexpensive availability of platforms for propaganda has caused many cyber troops to leverage them for shaping public opinion. Visual content is not easy to monitor and many users don’t report biased or misleading content. This makes it hard to spot manipulative content and remove it.

Fighting against manipulation

Organizations such as Mozilla and Google have introduced initiatives aimed at keeping the internet free from fake information. Individuals can take a few steps to join the fight against this kind of manipulation.

  • Don’t believe every piece of content that appears on your social media feed, especially from unverified sources.
  • Access links with caution, and be selective when approving friend or follow requests.
  • Limit the amount of private information that you provide online. More information makes it easier for cyber troops to tailor content.
  • Read the privacy policy of the social media apps that you’re using to understand how your information is being used.
  • Educate yourself on how to detect and ignore content that aims to sway your opinion or spread hate.
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