Report: Facebook really is used for propaganda and to influence elections

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It's something that many people have expected for some time, and now we know that it's true. Facebook has admitted that governments around the world have used the social network to spread propaganda and try to influence the outcome of elections.

In the run-up to the US election, there was speculation that powerful groups had been making use of Facebook to influence voters by spreading fake news. Now, in a white paper, Facebook reveals that through the use of fake accounts, targeted data collection and false information, governments and organizations have indeed been using the social network to control the news, shape the political landscape, and create different narratives and outcomes.

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The white paper says: "While information operations have a long history, social media platforms can serve as a new tool of collection and dissemination for these activities. Through the adept use of social media, information operators may attempt to distort public discourse, recruit supporters and financiers, or affect political or military outcomes. These activities can sometimes be accomplished without significant cost or risk to their organizers."

It goes on to point out four key techniques that are used to influence people:

Information (or Influence) Operations - Actions taken by governments or organized non-state actors to distort domestic or foreign political sentiment, most frequently to achieve a strategic and/or geopolitical outcome. These operations can use a combination of methods, such as false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts (false amplifiers) aimed at manipulating public opinion.

False News - News articles that purport to be factual, but which contain intentional misstatements of fact with the intention to arouse passions, attract viewership, or deceive.

False Amplifiers - Coordinated activity by inauthentic accounts with the intent of manipulating political discussion (e.g., by discouraging specific parties from participating in discussion, or amplifying sensationalistic voices over others).

Disinformation - Inaccurate or manipulated information/content that is spread intentionally. This can include false news, or it can involve more subtle methods, such as false flag operations, feeding inaccurate quotes or stories to innocent intermediaries, or knowingly amplifying biased or misleading information. Disinformation is distinct from misinformation, which is the inadvertent or unintentional spread of inaccurate information without malicious intent.

It is not just the US election which was interfered with -- Facebook says the French election has also shown signs, leading to the closure of more than 30,000 accounts.

You can check out the full report over on the Facebook website.

Photo credit: Alexey Boldin / Shutterstock

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