Fringe groups undermine democracy via social media


Social media has become a hotbed of extremism, used to undermine democracy, a think tank said, calling for reforms to restore trust in government and banish fringe elements.

The Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age said in a report that unchecked by regulators or operators, political parties, candidates, consultants and foreign agents use social media as a weapon.

“Disinformation has been weaponised to discredit democratic institutions, sow societal distrust and attack political candidates,” the report said.

The think tank outlined a list of proposals that would place government and industry checks on social media firms and would require them to strengthen internal controls.

“Social media has proved a useful tool for extremist groups to send messages of hate and to incite violence,” the think tank added, pointing to elections in the US, Kenya, the Philippines and Nigeria as examples.

Facing criticism it is failing to combat extremism, Facebook announced steps last year to combat misinformation and voter suppression ahead of the November 2020 US presidential election.

It said it removed a network of Russian accounts targeting US voters on Instagram.

Russia has long been accused of meddling in the US 2016 presidential election while now-defunct British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was found by US authorities to have deceived consumers about collection of Facebook data for voter profiling and targeting.

“In recent years foreign governments used social media and the Internet to interfere in elections around the globe,” the Kofi Annan Commission report said.