In a 2019 report, the Oxford Internet Institute put a name to the state of social media manipulation today: the “Global Disinformation Order.” Its research found evidence of organized social media manipulation by governments and political parties in 70 nations, more than a third of U.N. member states. This was a considerable increase from the 48 nations found in 2018 and the 28 in 2017, and these manipulation campaigns have been used to suppress human rights, discredit political opposition, and silence dissenting opinions.
While the controversies of 2016’s political events have shaped public perception of “standard” interference, the manipulation of opinion through social media can take on many guises. Bad actors can harness bot networks and artificial intelligence to artificially spotlight trends and activities. Unmonitored hate speech can rile tensions and facilitate violence and genocide. Online harassment campaigns can suppress the political activity of both candidates and voters. Dark political advertisers can utilize microtargeting to engage in discriminatory and opaque practices.
Currently, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for engaging in social media monitoring, or even the guidance of best practices. Rather, many organizations are coming to their own understandings and practices when working in a variety of contexts. In October 2019 members of dozens of organizations whose work has been significantly impacted by the rise in social media-facilitated misinformation gathered to develop solutions collectively. They came from several often-disparate spheres: fact-checking and journalistic institutions, human rights-focused organizations, academia, and technology platforms.
Based upon these earlier discussions and further research, representatives will reconvene in October 2020 and consider concrete recommendations for moving forward in two areas – approaches related to research in closed messaging applications and improved coordination among elections verifiers. We invite feedback as we seek consensus for next steps, and a finalized version of these recommendations will be shared following consultations.
You may also indicate your interest in joining our sessions via either feedback form below.
- Final Paper: Ethical Approaches to Closed Messaging Research: Considerations in Democratic Contexts
- Final Paper: Considerations for Coordination among Election Verifiers
These convenings were made possible by The Carter Center, The Mozilla Foundation, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.