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Facebook remains top target for disinformation, study says

A University of Oxford study looks at how governments and political parties are trying to manipulate the masses.

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Governments and political parties continue to use Facebook to spread disinformation.

Angela Lang/CNET

When it comes to disinformation, Facebook is the No. 1 platform for governments and political parties seeking to manipulate public opinion, according to a report out Thursday from the University of Oxford.

The report, titled, "The Global Disinformation Order 2019: Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation," looks at trends in how governments and political parties around the world use social media.

One reason that Facebook tops the list, the report says, is its sheer size. In addition, regular people use Facebook to get news, connect with friends and family, and create pages and groups -- all of which can play a role in spreading disinformation

Facebook said it continues to fight manipulation on its platform.

"We've developed smarter tools, greater transparency, and stronger partnerships to better identify emerging threats, stop bad actors, and reduce the spread of misinformation on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp," a Facebook spokesperson said. "We also know that this work is never finished and we can't do this alone. That's why we are working with policymakers, academics, and outside experts to make sure we continue to improve."

The report's findings include an overall spike in the number of countries running social media manipulation campaigns. That number is 70 now, up from 28 in 2017. The report also found that authoritarian regimes in 26 countries are using social media to "to suppress fundamental human rights, discredit political opponents, and drown out dissenting opinions."

Originally published Sept. 26 at 7:18 a.m. PT.
Update, 9:12 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Facebook spokesperson.