U.S. isn't the only country with an election interference problem

US isn’t the only country with an election interference problem

U.S. isn't the only country with an election interference problem

The report's authors warned that the techniques had become far more advanced and widespread in recent years, and said fake news had been employed in an attempt to influence elections in 18 countries, including the UK.

Currently, the two countries most known for restricting internet freedom are China and Russian Federation, where the government has notable control over what citizens access and news they consume.

Crackdowns on online journalists and activists for covering protests, training reporters, and voicing dissent have led internet freedom to decline in Morocco over the past year, an independent study by US-based NGO Freedom House has assessed. The fabrication of grassroots support for government policies on social media creates a closed loop in which the regime essentially endorses itself, leaving independent groups and ordinary citizens on the outside.

"The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating", added Ms Kelly.

Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election and the Brexit vote is by now well-documented, but the Freedom House report found that it wasn't just foreign forces that were trying to sway elections.

According to Freedom House, the 30 countries paying the "opinion shapers" is up from 26 previous year, 24 in 2015 and 22 in 2013, showing it is becoming an increasingly-common tactic. "Not only is this manipulation hard to detect, it is more hard to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking, because it's dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it". "So then one of the key steps would be to actually make online political ads transparent, which they're now not", Kelly said.

China was labelled the world's worst abuser of internet freedom, followed by Syria and Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government totally shut down mobile networks for two months in a state of emergency during wide-scale anti-government protests.

Governments manipulated social media to undermine democracy: Governments in 30 countries of the 65 countries assessed attempted to control online discussions.

The report showed that a record number of governments restricted mobile internet services for political or security reasons and often in areas populated by ethnic or religious minorities.

Technical attacks against news outlets, opposition, and rights defenders increased: Cyberattacks against government critics were documented in 34 out of 65 countries.

Among the region's countries, Armenia always comes behind Georgia (24 points), and Azerbaijan, with its 58, as usually, is considered a country with partly free internet.

According to research carried out by Freedom House, democratic integrity has only deteriorated in the past seven years, and as of June 2016 the countries most affected were Ukraine, Egypt, and Turkey.

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