Since June 2016, 32 of the 65 countries evaluated in the report saw their situation deteriorate; the most notable setbacks were registered in Ukraine, Egypt and Turkey.
In its annual report released late Monday, the Washington-based Freedom House said that manipulation and disinformation tactics on the internet played an important role in the elections of at least 18 countries, including the USA, thereby "damaging citizens' ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate", reports Efe news.
"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", Kelly said.
WASHINGTON―More governments are following the lead of Russian Federation and China by manipulating social media and suppressing dissent online in a grave threat to democracy, a human rights watchdog said Tuesday.
"Governments in a total of 30 countries deployed some form of manipulation to distort online information, up from 23 the previous year", the report said.
Iceland, Estonia, and Canada scored the highest in terms of Internet freedom, while the United States placed fifth.
China was the worst offender among the 65 nations assessed, followed by Ethiopia and Syria. Ukrainian authorities, for example, blocked Russia-based services, including the country's most widely used social network and search engine, after Russian agents flooded social media with fabricated stories advancing the Kremlin's narrative.
Other countries also increased their efforts to censor and manipulate information, the report said. "Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline".
Governments around the world have drastically increased their attempts to manipulate information being shared on social media networks, contributing to a seventh consecutive year of decline in internet freedom, a global report said. Countries likes Belarus disrupted mobile connectivity to prevent livestreamed images from reaching mass audience.
Freedom House expressed concern over the growing restrictions on VPNs―virtual private networks that allow circumvention of censors―which are now in place in 14 countries.
"While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact", the report said.