A new study, “Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation 2019”, elaborates on how designated cyber troops manipulate public opinions using social networking platforms.
It suggests that India is one of the seven countries involved in the “highly secretive phenomenon” of foreign influence operations through social media.
Citing revelations from networking giants like Facebook and Twitter, the report highlighted that India, along with China, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, Pakistan and Iran use computational propaganda “to influence global audiences”.
The study said that in India, government employees and full-time staff members were employed throughout the year to “control the information space”.
Their job requires “Building an inventory of evolving strategies, tools, and techniques of computational propaganda, and they make use of ‘political bots’ to amplify hate speech and other forms of manipulated content, as well as engage in the illegal harvesting of data and micro-targeting and deploy an army of ‘trolls’ to bully or harass political dissidents or journalists online”.
Termed ‘medium capacity’, these teams range in sizes of 50-300 people and involve multiple contracts as well as advertising expenditures worth over $1.4 million.
According to the study, certain civil societies, influencers and even citizens have been found to be engaging in manipulation, only to a lesser degree.
The study also notes that the use of social media for manipulation campaigns has increased by as much as 150 percent globally in the past two years.