Internet Freedom: Abuse or Real Rights for citizens?

By Yanx Wang, Tianjiao Yang, Baiyan Zhu

“2016 U.S. presidential election party, Riga, Latvia” by Janitors is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One concrete example of the manipulation of social platforms involves the social media activities during the 2016 US presidential election. In this election, there is evidence to suggest that Russian-backed organizations and online manipulation teams actively used social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, to manipulate and influence voters’ opinions.

The Russian-backed teams created a large number of fake social media accounts that impersonated US citizens or political groups. They then posted false information, political advertisements, and extreme opinions in an attempt to stir controversy and divide voters.

At the same time, they utilized social media algorithms to amplify controversial statements and content, making them more prominent in users’ social media feeds and thereby influencing more people.

These manipulative tactics have garnered widespread attention and discussion, emphasizing the responsibility of social media platforms to monitor and combat false information, external interference, and manipulation activities. This has also sparked profound reflections on the balance between freedom of speech and online privacy and security. Social media platforms have taken a range of measures to address these issues, including improving advertising policies, enhancing account verification, and monitoring false information. This example highlights the influence of social media in shaping public opinion and political decisions, as well as the challenges in maintaining freedom of speech and information quality.

“Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In 2023, a noteworthy illustration of the intricate interplay between internet freedom and constraints unfolded with the promotion of deepfake videos by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. These deepfake videos featured former President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, two influential figures in American politics and public health.

In this incident, advanced deepfake technology was harnessed to create convincing yet entirely fabricated content. The deepfake videos portrayed Trump endorsing Governor DeSantis for the upcoming presidential election and Fauci making controversial statements. These fabricated endorsements and statements aimed to manipulate public sentiment, influence political dynamics, and sway the course of the election.

This incident highlights several key aspects within the evolving landscape of internet freedom and constraints. It illustrates how continually advancing technology and its misuse challenge democratic principles, compelling us to take proactive measures to protect the digital space from manipulation. Faced with these challenges, finding a balance between preserving internet freedom and safeguarding democratic integrity remains an urgent issue in 2023.

“Government blocks Twitch video streaming service” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

While technology and politics are inextricably linked, freedom and democracy in the public sphere are more worth protecting than preventing.

In response to border tensions, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and UC Browser, citing concerns over data security and privacy. This move sparked profound discussions about internet freedom and digital sovereignty. It created opportunities for Indian alternatives to emerge, emphasising the importance of protecting user data and online privacy. Some Indian apps successfully filled the void, championing internet freedom while respecting security concerns. This action reflected broader geopolitical tensions, highlighting nations’ duty to uphold internet freedom. Users sought alternatives in various categories, from short video apps to file sharing, web browsers, e-commerce, all in the context of preserving internet freedom and individual rights. The success of these alternatives depended not only on user adoption but also on their commitment to preserving internet freedom principles.


Nehamas, N. (2023, June 8). DeSantis campaign uses ‘deepfake’ images to attack trump, experts suggest. The New York Times.

News, B. (2018, December 17). Russia “meddled in all big social media” around US election. BBC News.

Gandhi, A. (2020, June 30). With Chinese apps ban, these Indian alternatives rise to fill the gap. Inc42 Media.