What are the findings in report on disinformation campaigns released by the Computational Propaganda project?

Published: October 1, 2019

A comprehensive report on disinformation campaigns released by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford. The methodology involved news reporting analysis, a secondary literature review of public archives and scientific reports, drafting country case studies, and expert consultations.

Findings of the report

  • India was among a small bunch of seven countries along with China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela where state actors use computational propaganda on Facebook and Twitter to influence global audiences.
  • The report found at least seven instances of “cyber troops” in India. Cyber troops are government or political party actors tasked with manipulating public opinion online. Private contractors were the most active cyber troops in India.
  • India was categorized as medium-capacity for cyber troops along with Brazil, Pakistan, and the UK.
  • The report noted that cyber troops do three things: suppress fundamental human rights, discredit political opposition, and drown out political dissent.
  • In India, cyber troop activity was found in two instances by a political party or politicians, three or more instances by a private contractor, on one instance by civil society organisation, and one by citizens and influencers.
  • The report found that bot-led automated manipulation as well as human-led manipulation spreading propaganda for a party, attacked its political opposition, and spread polarising messaging designed to drive divisions in India.
  • The use of disinformation and media manipulation, data-driven strategies, amplifying content by flooding hashtags, and troll armies that harass dissidents or journalists online are found in India. India did not report mass-reporting of content or accounts as seen in other countries.

The report also observed that co-option of social media technologies provides authoritarian regimes with a powerful tool to shape public discussions and spread propaganda online, while simultaneously surveilling, censoring, and restricting digital public spaces.

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