People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken September 27, 2013. (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration/File Photo)
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Just a few years ago, Facebook and Twitter were hailed as tools for democracy activists, enabling movements like the Arab Spring to flourish.Today, the tables have turned as fears grow over how social media may have been manipulated to disrupt the U.S. election, and over how authoritarian governments are using the networks to clamp down on dissent.The latest revelations from Facebook and Twitter, which acknowledged that Russian-backed entities used their network to spread disinformation and sow political discord, have heightened concerns about the impact of social networks on democracy.In the United States, the disclosures by Facebook and Twitter fueled concerns that disinformation campaigns, likely from Russian entities, sought to manipulate public opinion and polarize the electorate ahead of the November election.Facebook also acknowledged foreign entities linked to Russia paid to promote political messages on the leading social network, potentially violating U.S. election laws.The Oxford researchers said in a report Thursday that the campaign to spread "junk news" during the 2016 presidential election via Twitter appeared to target key states which could sway the Electoral College results.
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