The magic of cinemas is slowly fading away in the age of Netflix, leaving behind a nostalgic memory. Yet, the most pressing concern is how fascist regimes have cleverly used cinemas to shape public opinions. However, their new obsession is social media and the internet, which is no surprise.
With nearly 65% of the world’s population, or roughly 5.16 billion people, spending an average of 6 hours and 53 minutes online, these platforms have become a weapon of mass persuasion.
Social media was born out of the ideals of liberty and free speech. Google, Facebook, and Twitter were created to empower every individual in the world with a voice, connect them to the global community, and give them access to useful information. And they did just that.
These platforms have been instrumental in sowing the seeds of change and revolution across the world. Remember the “Cedar Revolution” in Lebanon in 2005 that brought about the first regime change through the internet?
Or the Arab Spring uprisings in 2010 that swept across the Arab world and led to the ousting of the Presidents of Tunisia and Egypt?
Social media was the driving force behind these movements, and it continues to be a powerful tool for social change, as seen with movements like Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and the Umbrella Movement.
But lately, social media has transformed from a beacon of hope for liberal values to a breeding ground for the death of democracies, contributing to the rise of digital Fascism.
The Rise of Digital Fascism
Spreading misinformation and false news by Fascist forces became incredibly powerful with the rise of social media, as it allows such content to reach the length and breadth of a nation in a very short amount of time.
Those with far-right extremist ideologies took their time to learn how to break this social media bastion of the liberals and came up with using disinformation and false news as a strategy to advance their agenda.
The content selection algorithm of social media channels supported them in this cause. When a person has extremist tendencies, social media like Facebook, provides them with more extreme ideology content in their news feed to increase engagement. Such repetitive exposure to extreme content helps them shape their opinion, and behaviour both online and offline.
Personal experiences, socioeconomic conditions, and political climate also contribute to an individual’s ideological leanings.
Facebook in the 2016 US elections
Facebook has faced criticism for its role in the spread of disinformation during the 2016 US elections. Facebook’s algorithmic system showed users content based on their interests and browsing history, creating a filter bubble that reinforced their beliefs and opinions.
Anyone can run a campaign with false information to strengthen one’s belief system and make it lean towards extremism. With a deluge of disinformation against the Democrats in the US, Facebook became one of the reasons, but not the sole reason, for the successful Presidential Campaign for the 45th
Since then, Facebook has made efforts to improve its content moderation and fact-checking policies to combat the spread of disinformation on the platform.
More Examples from Authoritarian Regimes
ISIS and other terrorist organizations have used social media platforms to spread their message and recruit new members from around the world.
Russia’s Internet Research Agency: The Russian government has been accused of using the Internet Research Agency, a state-sponsored “troll farm,” to spread propaganda and disinformation on social media platforms. The agency is believed to have played a role in the 2016 US Presidential election and has been linked to efforts to influence elections in other countries as well.
Iran’s Cyber Army: The Iranian government has a dedicated Cyber Army that is tasked with monitoring and censoring online content, as well as hacking into the computer systems of foreign governments and organizations. The Cyber Army has been accused of launching cyberattacks on Western targets, including US banks and the US government.
WhatsApp during Indian General Elections: During the 2019 Indian general elections, there were numerous reports of political parties, including the BJP, using WhatsApp to spread disinformation and fake news to influence voters. This included the spread of doctored images, videos, and misleading information about opposition parties and candidates.
Fascism uses every powerful tool including films, radio, and digital platforms to spread misinformation, dehumanize and vilify a section of the people and create a false personality of leaders for cult following.
AI in propaganda
Deep fake videos are a form of synthetic media in which an existing video or image is manipulated or replaced with content that is fabricated using advanced artificial intelligence techniques. While deep fake technology has a wide range of potential applications, it has also been used for malicious purposes, including by right-wing extremists for propaganda.
For example, in 2018, a deep fake video of former President Barack Obama was created that appeared to show him making derogatory comments about President Trump. The video was designed to sow discord and undermine confidence in the political system. See the video below:
Even though Fascism catches up with technology slowly, they make it venomous for the society when they get a grab of it.
To be continued…