Past eventMembers

Cyber Populism: Is Social Media Damaging Democracy?

17 July 2017 - 1:00pm to 2:00pm

Chatham House, London


Samantha Bradshaw, Researcher, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University
Professor Andrew Chadwick, Co-Director, New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway
Professor Philip Howard, Director of Research, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University



With social media strategy now an essential component of electioneering worldwide, election campaigns have developed increasingly sophisticated methods of maximizing the impact that the internet can have on the electorate. One such method is the artificial manipulation of social media output through botnets – automated software used to flood these channels with propaganda. The 2016 US presidential election offers a clear example of this: over one-third of pro-Trump tweets came from self-regulating and unmanned accounts.

This panel will discuss the findings of a new report by the Oxford Internet Institute - Troops, Trolls and Trouble-Makers:  A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation -  which examines how governments use social media to influence public opinion. The report monitors and assesses over 25 countries that use ‘misinformation’ campaigns, trolls, cyber troops and botnets to censor dissent and sway political outcomes. What different strategies do these governments use to manipulate public opinion? And, much like debates currently surrounding ‘fake news,’ does computational propaganda have a substantial effect on electoral outcomes or is the extent of its influence overblown?