Citizens are struggling to choose leaders based on factual news and authentic information because there's an influx of manipulated content appearing on their screens.
A new report by Freedom House, the US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates human rights worldwide, says manipulation of social media and disinformation campaigns have led to a global decline in internet freedom for the seventh year in a row.
Freedom House is a US-based, United States government-funded non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. They're using paid commentators, trolls, bots and false news sites to influence citizens.
The governments of a total of 30 countries "deployed some form of manipulation to distort online information, up from 23 the previous year".
"Paid commentators, trolls, bots, false news sites, and propaganda outlets were among the techniques used by leaders to inflate their popular support and essentially endorse themselves", Freedom House said in its report, which was released on November 14.
"The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating", he added.
The report also named and shamed the countries involved in suppressing freedoms, and perhaps unsurprisingly, found that China (for the third consecutive year) was the world's worst abuser of internet freedom. At least 16 countries had "prominent examples of fake news around elections or referendums".
Governments around the world are "dramatically" using dodgy social media tactics to undermine democracy, according to a report published this week.
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. Its government has tasked a keyboard army to make people believe it's cracking down on the drug trade. "Not only is this manipulation hard to detect, it is more hard to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking, because it's dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it".
The report comes after an alleged Russia-led campaign was exposed during 2016's USA presidential election campaign - shining a bright light on similar, seemingly state-backed, cases of cyber-meddling.
It said the countries with the fewest government Internet restrictions were, in order, Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Germany, Australia and the United States.