The Crisis of Social Media

What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation.

by Adrian Shahbaz and Allie Funk

Internet freedom is increasingly imperiled by the tools and tactics of digital authoritarianism, which have spread rapidly around the globe. Repressive regimes, elected incumbents

with authoritarian ambitions, and unscrupulous partisan operatives have exploited the unregulated spaces of social media platforms, converting them into instruments for polit- ical distortion and societal control. While social media have
at times served as a level playing field for civic discussion, they are now tilting dangerously toward illiberalism, exposing citizens to an unprecedented crackdown on their fundamen- tal freedoms. Moreover, a startling variety of governments are deploying advanced tools to identify and monitor users on
an immense scale. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2019.

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